Claimant seeks damages for personal injuries he allegedly sustained on
May 7, 2005 during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing
Sing), when he was attacked by another inmate.
Claimant testified that he
was transferred from Clinton Correctional Facility to Sing Sing to effectuate
his presence at his mother’s funeral. Claimant maintains that, without
having been cleared by a sergeant, claimant was permitted to go to the A block
yard. While talking on the telephone in the yard, claimant was attacked by two
inmates, Johnson and Griswold. Claimant was charged with fighting and, after a
disciplinary hearing, he was found guilty and spent 15 days in keeplock.
According to claimant, he sustained injuries to his eyelid, knees, elbow and
temple, which resulted in permanent scars. Claimant maintains the State is
responsible for the attack because claimant was never interviewed by a sergeant
and cleared to go into general population.
Correction Officer William
Casanas testified that he was the Officer-In-Charge of the A block yard at the
time of the incident. Casanas responded to the three inmates fighting. Casanas
escorted claimant out of the yard and noted that claimant “looked
Casanas explained that when inmates are transferred to Sing Sing for
funeral visits, they are placed in 5 building and are considered in “draft
mode” until cleared by a sergeant, which usually occurs within 24 to 72
hours of the inmate’s arrival at Sing Sing. The sergeant interviews the
inmate and examines his known enemies list. A slip confirming that this
procedure has been completed is attached to the inmate’s movement card
(Ex. A). Casanas did not know if claimant had been cleared to go into general
population, but Casanas assumed that claimant had been since he was in the yard.
Casanas noted that neither of claimant’s assailants was on
claimant’s enemies list (Ex. A).
Correction Officer Jeffrey DeLoatch
testified that he is the legal liaison at Sing Sing. DeLoatch’s
responsibilities include researching facility files for judges and the Office of
the Attorney General. DeLoatch was familiar with the procedures for funeral
visits. He testified that claimant’s presence in the yard indicated that
he had been cleared for general population. DeLoatch explained that an
interview sheet is prepared by the sergeant and attached to an I.D. card when
the inmate leaves the facility. Those records are only kept for 90 days and,
therefore, are no longer available for the period in issue.
Perilli testified that he has been the medical director at Sing Sing since
December 1999. He reviewed claimant’s medical records and noted an entry
on May 7, 2005, which indicated minor injuries as a result of a fight and that
there was no further follow-up.
It is well settled that the State is
required to use reasonable care to protect the inmates of its correctional
facilities from foreseeable risks of harm (see Flaherty v State of New
, 296 NY 342; Dizak v State of New York
, 124 AD2d 329;
Sebastiano v State of New York
, 112 AD2d 562). Foreseeable risks of harm
include the risk of attack by other prisoners (see Littlejohn v State
of New York
, 218 AD2d 833). That duty, however, does not render the State
an insurer of inmate safety (see Sanchez v State of New York
NY2d 247). The State’s duty is to exercise reasonable care to prevent
foreseeable attacks by other inmates (see Padgett v State of New
, 163 AD2d 914). The test for liability has evolved from the strict
requirement of specific knowledge to encompass not only what the State actually
knew, but also “what the State reasonably should have known
for example, from its knowledge of risks to a class of inmates based on the
institution’s expertise or prior experience, or from its own policies and
practices designed to address such risks” (Sanchez v State of New
at 254 [emphasis in original]).
liability in an inmate assault case, claimant must demonstrate one of the
following: (1) the State knew or should have known that claimant was at risk of
being assaulted and yet failed to provide claimant with reasonable protection;
(2) the State knew or should have known that the assailant was prone to
perpetrating such an assault and the State did not take proper precautionary
measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene but did
not act (id.
). “The State will be liable in negligence for an
assault by another inmate only upon a showing that it failed to exercise
adequate care to prevent that which was reasonably foreseeable” (Wilson
v State of New York
, 303 AD2d 678, 679). Notably, neither of
claimant’s attackers was on his enemies list and claimant did not testify
that he had reason to believe he would be subject to attack in the Sing Sing
The Court finds that, upon consideration of all the evidence,
including listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as
they did so, there is a lack of evidence sufficient to meet claimant’s
burden of proof.
ACCORDINGLY, LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO.