New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HICKS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-016-018, Claim No. 105687


Claim alleging slip and fall in Sullivan C.F. gym, as claimant failed to prove he had slipped on water accumulation from leak in ceiling.

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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney:
Louis J. Hicks, Pro se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Geoffrey B. Rossi, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 1, 2006
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

This decision follows the trial of the claim of Louis J. Hicks, which was held at Sullivan Correctional Facility. Mr. Hicks alleges that on February 20, 2000, he slipped and fell on an accumulation of water in the Sullivan Correctional Facility gym that resulted from a leak in the ceiling.

There is no question that at the time of claimant's incident, there was a problem with a leaking roof at the Sullivan gym. Defendant's own witness, John Lalik from the State Office of General Services, Design and Construction, testified that repairs were attempted through December of 1999, but that the facility reported "just prior to Christmas" of 1999, that there was still a leak. According to Mr. Lalik, one more attempt at repair was made in January of 2000, but to no avail, and "there was no . . . means available other than a capital project to fix the roof. It had to be replaced." Lalik further testified that such project was not undertaken until some time in 2005.

Assuming then that there was a leak in the roof, claimant must show, as a preliminary matter, that it was such leak that caused his fall; as set forth below, the parties advanced differing versions of what happened on February 20, 2000.

Hicks testified as follows with regard to his accident:

. . . I had a basketball call out for state team tryouts . . . we were playing . . . for about an hour and it began to rain . . . there was a leak in the gym in the roof, the ceiling. . . . water began coming down from the ceiling, drops, little drops . . . it accumulated and we did not know because we continued to play basketball. As I was going to the hoop . . . to make the lay up . . . I slipped on . . . the leak, it was like a couple of drops on the floor, more than a couple of drops . . . I slipped and I was trying to catch my balance and when I was coming down, I was airborne . . . from the slip. And as I was trying to catch my balance . . . I came down on and met [another inmate's] foot and [that] caused me to twist my left ankle . . . I couldn't get up. They notified . . . the officers and . . . they had to carry me down to the medical [unit] . . .

Claimant's exhibit 4 contains a Report of Inmate Injury as to the accident, in which claimant wrote the following statement, "Was playing basketball and slipped on a puddle of water and twisted my ankle on someone's foot." He recalled that the fall occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m.[1]
Hicks further stated that there was only one area of the gym where the ceiling was leaking, which he described as:
it's the left basketball hoop . . . And if you're standing in front of the free throw key . . . on the right side of the free throw key, on the line . . . in between . . . the middle of the side of the line, on the right side.

Claimant testified that at the time of this accident, he had a pre-existing injury to his right ankle[2]
, and he stated that such injury had also been caused when he fell on water from the same gym ceiling leak, adding that he "did not drop a claim . . . the first time it happened . . . I sucked it up, I'm a big guy, but . . . what sort of annoyed me was the fact that I did hurt myself on that same . . . damaged roof . . . [They] claimed to repair it and they opened back up. We played basketball on it one more time and it happened again." He added that prior to his fall on February 20, 2000, the gym roof had been leaking for a while, but it was his understanding that it had been repaired and he assumed that since the gym was open, it was safe to play.
In contrast to Hicks' testimony, defendant maintained that he did not fall on an accumulation of water while playing basketball, but rather later, as he was leaving the gym at "go back" time (if so, such fall could not have occurred on an accumulation of water, since, as set forth above, it was claimant's testimony that there was only one leakage area in the gym, on the basketball court).

In that regard, defendant called Correction Officer E. H. Huebsch, who testified that on February 20, 2000, he was working as a "day shift" officer in the gym. Officer Huebsch had no specific recollection of Hicks being in the gym that day, noting that "it was five years ago," although he said he did recognize Hicks. Huebsch testified as to a log made on February 20, 2000 (defendant's exhibit A), which contains an entry for 11:30 a.m. stating "Go-Back - Gym Closed." Such entry is followed by a "note" stating that "Inmate Hicks . . . claims he twisted his ankle upon leaving the gym at go back time."

Huebsch added that if an inmate had been injured during play, such would have been entered on the log with a notation of the time, and he also said that if the medical unit had been called regarding an inmate injury, such would appear on the log.

The Report of Inmate Injury contained in claimant's exhibit 4 seems to more strongly support defendant's version of events than claimant's; such indicates that the time of injury was 11:25 a.m. (not 11:00), and indicates that Hicks "reported" for medical treatment at 12:45 p.m.

In any event, I find that claimant has failed to demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he slipped and fell on an accumulation of water caused by a leak in the Sullivan Correctional Facility gym on February 20, 2000, and he has advanced no other theory implicating any negligence by defendant. Claim no. 105687 is thus dismissed. The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

March 1, 2006
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

  1. [1]Claimant appears to have arrived at this time by reviewing his Report of Inmate Injury, noting that he arrived at the medical unit at 11:25 a.m. As set forth below, however, such report actually indicates that the time of injury was 11:25 a.m. and that he reported for medical care at 12:45 p.m.
  2. [2]See claimant's exhibit 5, a Report of Inmate Injury dated October 11, 1998, in which claimant stated that he slipped and fell on a wet spot on the gym floor while playing basketball and "the water came from a leaky ceiling."