New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-009-157, Claim No. 106659


This claim seeking damages based upon the alleged failure of correctional facility personnel to provide certain items to claimant while under a special drug watch was dismissed.

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 29, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In this claim, claimant seeks damages based upon actions taken by correction officers at Mohawk Correctional Facility ("Mohawk") at a time when claimant was an inmate at the facility, and was placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") under a special drug watch. The trial of this claim took place on November 7, 2005 at Marcy Correctional Facility.

Testimony and documentary evidence introduced at trial establishes that on July 27, 2002, at approximately 4:10 p.m., claimant was admitted to SHU at Mohawk when he was suspected of smuggling and possessing drugs. Claimant testified that when he was placed in his cell at SHU, he was treated inhumanely, and was not provided with any towels, wash cloths, toothpaste, toothbrush or toilet paper, and there were no sheets, blankets, pillows, or pillow cases for his bed. In essence, he testified that he was provided with only a mattress on a bed frame, and that this mattress contained fecal matter and was covered with urine stains. He also testified that there was no running water in his cell. Claimant testified that pursuant to Directive 4910 issued by the Department of Correctional Services, he was entitled to receipt of these items upon his admission to SHU, and he seeks money damages based upon his failure to receive them.

Claimant produced a copy of the "Mohawk Correctional Facility Special Housing Unit Initial Issue Form" dated July 27, 2002 (see Claimant's Exhibit 2), which lists items that are apparently provided to inmates upon their admission to SHU. This form was not signed by claimant, and claimant testified that he refused to sign this form because he did not receive the listed items.

Claimant acknowledged that he had previously filed a grievance with regard to the missing items. This administrative grievance was denied, as was claimant's administrative appeal.

Correction Officer John Worden was called as a witness by the State. He testified that he was assigned to the SHU at Mohawk in July, 2002, when claimant was admitted to that unit. He testified that inmates are permitted very few items while in their cells during a drug watch, to prevent them from hiding any drugs or contraband. He testified that the inmate is provided with a bedpan and a robe upon admission. He also testified that before an inmate is received in the SHU for a special drug watch, the cell is first cleaned and then inspected by an officer to insure that there is no other contraband present. Officer Worden further testified that if a mattress is soiled, a new mattress can be obtained by the inmate upon his request.

He further testified that while an inmate is on special drug watch, the correction officer assigned to the unit will observe the inmate at least once every 15 minutes, and document his observations in the facility logbook. The logbook reflects any requests made by the inmate, whether agreed to or not.

In this particular matter, Officer Worden reviewed copies of the logbook entries pertaining to inmate Johnson (see Defendant's Exhibit E; see also Claimant's Exhibit 1) covering the period from July 27, 2002 at 4:10 p.m. (when claimant was first admitted under the special drug watch) through July 29, 2002 at 4:30 p.m. (when claimant was taken off the drug watch). The first reference in the logbook of any request made by claimant occurred at 3:35 p.m. on July 28, 2002, when he requested a cloth to clean feces from his mattress. Later that day, at 5:50 p.m., the logbook entries reflect that a Sergeant Weber advised claimant that he would be receiving a new mattress, and the logbook entries establish that a new mattress was provided at what appears to be 7:30 p.m. that same night.

Correction Officer Worden also testified that upon admission, claimant is permitted to examine his cell, and in this case, claimant signed a statement acknowledging that he found his cell in good condition (see Claimant's Exhibit 2).

With regard to that aspect of this claim in which claimant alleges that he did not receive items of necessity when he was first admitted to SHU, the evidence at trial establishes that this issue was previously addressed in a grievance brought by claimant at Mohawk, which determined that claimant had received appropriate items upon admission, as required by Directive 4910. At trial, claimant offered only his own testimony that he did not receive all appropriate items, and asserts that his refusal to sign the Initial Issue Form is additional proof that he did not receive these items. The Court finds, however, that such testimony is insufficient to establish by a preponderance of the evidence, claimant's cause of action that he did not receive appropriate personal hygiene items upon his admission to SHU.

With regard to claimant's allegations that his cell was in a filthy condition, and that his mattress contained fecal matter and urine stains, the Court relies upon the statement signed by claimant upon his admission to SHU (see Claimant's Exhibit 2), in which he acknowledges that he has "personally checked my cell and found it to be in good condition". This statement is buttressed by the fact that no complaints regarding the condition of his cell, and in particular the condition of his mattress, were made by claimant until 3:35 p.m. on July 28, 2002, approximately one full day after his admission to SHU.

The Court credits the testimony of Officer Worden that cells must be cleaned and inspected prior to the admission of an inmate, especially on a special drug watch, since the State is most concerned in closely monitoring the inmate who is the subject of the watch.

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish his allegations, by a preponderance of the evidence, with respect to the condition of his cell and mattress.

Based upon the foregoing, therefore, Claim No. 106659 is hereby dismissed.


March 29, 2006
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims