New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CASANOVA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-009-156, Claim No. 107081


Claimant's claim for personal injuries suffered by him in a slip and fall in the slop sink area in a dorm at Marcy Correctional Facility was dismissed based upon claimant's failure to establish that the State had actual or constructive notice of a defective condition.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: G. Lawrence Dillon, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 23, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In this claim, claimant seeks damages for personal injuries sustained by him on December 22, 2000, when he was incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Marcy"). The claim is based upon allegations of negligence against the State, in allowing water to leak onto the floor in the A-1 Unit mess hall dorm, and that this condition was the proximate cause of claimant's injuries when he slipped and fell. The trial of this claim was held at Marcy Correctional Facility on November 7, 2005.

As set forth in his claim, and by his trial testimony, claimant was working as a porter in the A-1 dorm in the early morning of December 22, 2000, when he slipped on water which had accumulated on the floor in the slop sink area of the A-1 Unit mess hall dorm, causing him to fall to the floor. Claimant alleges that he sustained severe injuries to his head, back and right knee in this fall.

Claimant testified that the slop sink in the mess hall dorm was defective, in that water leaked from the sink onto the floor adjacent to the sink. He further testified that this defect had existed, and water had been leaking from the sink for several months, and that inmates had made several complaints to facility staff at Marcy about this condition.

Although they did not testify at trial, claimant offered into evidence the affidavits of three other inmates in support of this claim, and these affidavits were received into evidence (see Claimant's Exhibit 4). One of these inmates, Jose Mieles, was working with claimant on the day of the accident. Although he did not actually witness claimant's fall, he immediately went to assist claimant when he heard claimant's scream for help. In his affidavit, he states that "the faulty slopsink [sic] had leaked water out into the Dayroom". In another affidavit, Kevin Comunale stated that he witnessed claimant's fall, and confirmed that claimant had slipped in water that had accumulated on the floor in the slop sink area. Finally, inmate Nathaniel Atkins stated, upon his information and belief, that inmates had made prior complaints to correctional staff for approximately three months regarding the leak from the slop sink.

Frederick J. Copyt, the Plant Superintendent at Marcy, was the only witness called by the State. He testified that his duties require him to oversee operations and maintenance at the facility. He testified that he had searched the records maintained by the facility for any work orders pertaining to the slop sink area, prior to the December 22, 2000 accident, and that no such work orders were found.

It is beyond dispute that the State has a duty to exercise reasonable care in providing for the safety of inmates participating in work programs and to provide them with a reasonably safe place to work (
Palmisano v State of New York, 47 AD2d 692; Callahan v State of New York, 19 AD2d 437, affd 14 NY2d 665). Furthermore, as a landowner, the State has a duty to act as a reasonable person would to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition (Preston v State of New York, 59 NY2d 997; Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233). This obligation extends to defendant's correctional facilities (see, Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910). The State therefore owes the inmates within its correctional facilities a duty of due care to prevent injuries from foreseeable risks (Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495). The State, however, is not an insurer of inmate safety (Hirsh v State of New York, 8 NY2d 125), and negligence may not be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (Tripoli v State of New York, 72 AD2d 823; Mochen v State of New York, 57 AD2d 719).
In order for a claimant to succeed in a negligence action such as this, he must establish the existence of a foreseeably dangerous condition; that the State created the condition or had either actual or constructive notice of it; that the State failed to remedy the condition within a reasonable time; that such condition was the proximate cause of claimant's accident; and that the claimant sustained damages.

In this claim, claimant has established, without contradiction, that he was caused to slip and fall by an accumulation of water created by the defective slop sink, and that such a defect can constitute a foreseeably dangerous condition. Since there is no indication that this condition was created by the State, this case rests upon the determination as to whether the State had notice, either actual or constructive, of this dangerous condition.

Claimant testified that the sink had been leaking for several months, and that demands to correct the defect had been made by inmates to correction officers over this period of time. This testimony is similar to the statements contained in the affidavit from Nathaniel Atkins (see Claimant's Exhibit 4). Claimant, however, did not present any direct proof as to when these demands for correction were made, who made them, or to whom they were made.

Defendant, on the other hand, has established to the satisfaction of this Court that no work orders to correct the defect existed prior to claimant's fall on December 22, 2000. The Court must conclude that if complaints had been made prior to this incident, a work order would have been issued to examine and/or correct the defect. The Court, therefore, can find no evidence that the State had actual notice of the defect in the slop sink prior to claimant's fall. Furthermore, insufficient evidence was presented at trial that would enable this Court to charge the State with constructive notice of this defective condition.

Accordingly, based upon the testimony and evidence submitted at trial, the Court finds that claimant failed to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the State had actual or constructive notice of a defective condition. Absent such notice, the State cannot be held liable for the injuries sustained by claimant in his fall.

Accordingly, Claim No. 107081 is hereby dismissed.


March 23, 2006
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims