New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

COLEMAN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2006-030-024, Claim No. 109569


Claimant alleges Defendant’s agents failed to provide him with adequate medical care while an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility. Defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to establish a prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved at the time of trial granted

Case Information

Claimant short name:
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Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
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Signature date:
October 2, 2006
White Plains

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See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant alleges that Defendant’s agents failed to provide him with adequate medical care when he was an inmate at Downstate Correctional Facility (hereinafter Downstate). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on July 21, 2006.
Claimant testified that on February 10, 2004 at approximately 8:00 p.m. he was playing in a basketball tournament at Downstate when his hand was injured by another player as they sought control of the ball. Mr. Coleman immediately reported his injury to one of the officers stationed at the gym, an injury report was filled out, and another officer escorted Claimant to the facility hospital. When he arrived at the facility hospital, no physician was present, and he was seen by a nurse. The nurse examined him, and advised that “the doctor was on his way.”
When Physician’s Assistant Miller arrived at about 9:00 p.m., he examined Claimant. The watch commander advised Miller that Claimant had been readied to go to an outside hospital, but he was not sent there. The physician’s assistant gave Claimant an ace bandage and “a board,” and he was sent back to his cell, where he was keeplocked until the next day.
Throughout the night Claimant complained of pain in his hand to the officers stationed near his cell. The next morning he was taken back to the facility infirmary, and x-rays were taken. Physician’s Assistant Miller reviewed the x-rays, took Claimant into another room, and there was - according to Claimant - some colloquy wherein Miller inquired “how did you hurt your hand?” and Claimant responded with “you know how I hurt my hand I told you last night.” Thereafter, his hand was placed in a soft cast, and he was transferred to an outside hospital.
At the outside hospital, he waited “a day or two” for “an operation.” Claimant said the hospital placed “two plates and seven screws in . . . [his] left hand” and he was returned to the jail.
Several weeks later, “it was time to remove the cast,” and Claimant learned for the first time that “the screws and plates would be in . . . [his] hand for the rest of . . . [his] life.” Thereafter, Claimant put in for sick call because his hand continued to hurt. At sick call, he was seen by a doctor with an unpronounceable name that began with the letter “K.” When Claimant asked that he be given therapy because of his pain, the doctor suggested that Claimant perform a squeezing hand maneuver about 100 times a day, and there was discussion of some kind of medicine, but the doctor indicated that it would “hurt his stomach” so it was not prescribed. Thereafter, Claimant stopped making requests for therapy because, he said, the doctor was not going to send him out for therapy.
Copies of portions of the Claimant’s ambulatory health record (hereafter AHR) as well as requests for x-rays and the associated narrative reports, and a report from Mt. Vernon Hospital were admitted in evidence. [See Exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. These documents confirm that on February 10, 2004 he was first seen at 8:30 p.m. in the facility infirmary by the nurse [Exhibit 1], and later at 10:00 p.m. by the physician’s assistant. [Exhibit 2]. The AHR entry for 10:00 p.m. indicates that a splint was applied, and Claimant was referred for x-rays. [Exhibits 2 and 3]. The documents also confirm that he was taken to Mt. Vernon Hospital the following day after the x-rays were reviewed [see id.], and admitted. Surgery was performed, and included “internal fixation of 3rd & 4th metatarsal left hand.” [Exhibit 4]. An additional x-ray report submitted by Claimant dated March 18, 2004 indicates that the fractures were in a “satisfactory position” and showed evidence of “partial healing.” [Exhibit 5].
On cross-examination, Claimant denied that he had ever been injured in the left hand before. Mr. Coleman stated that he was shot in his right hand twenty years earlier, not his left hand. Claimant at first agreed that he had been unable to avoid sleeping on his hand that night. He would not agree that sleeping on the arm exacerbated the injury because, he explained, he had rolled onto his hand, felt pain, and then slept with his left arm hanging off the bed. He reiterated that he was injured at 8:00 p.m., and went to the outside hospital at approximately 11:00 a.m. the following day. Mr. Coleman agreed that the physician’s assistant placed an ace bandage on his arm at approximately 9:00 p.m. on February 10, 2004.
Asked to more specifically describe the treatment he received at the facility infirmary on the night of his injury, he did not recall being given ice or having x-rays taken that evening, but did recall receiving pain medication in the form of aspirin, and that his arm was wrapped in an ace bandage.
No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.
It is “fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons,” including proper diagnosis and treatment. Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789 (3d Dept 1990), lv denied 76 NY2d 701 (1990).
In a medical malpractice claim, the Claimant has the burden of proof and must prove (1) a deviation or departure from accepted practice and (2) evidence that such deviation was the proximate cause of the injury or other damage. A cause of action is premised in medical malpractice when it is the medical treatment, or the lack of it, that is in issue. A Claimant must establish that the medical caregiver either did not possess or did not use reasonable care or best judgment in applying the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed by practitioners in the field. The “ ‘claimant must [demonstrate] . . . that the physician deviated from accepted medical practice and that the alleged deviation proximately caused his . . .injuries’ (Parker v State of New York , 242 AD2d 785, 786).” Auger v State of New York, 263 AD2d 929, 931 (3d Dept 1999). Without such medical proof, no viable claim giving rise to liability on the part of the State can be sustained. Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025 (4th Dept 1976), lv denied 40 NY2d 804 (1976). A medical expert’s testimony is necessary to establish, at a minimum, the standard of care. Spensieri v Lasky, 94 NY2d 231 (1999).
If a claim can be read to allege simple negligence, or medical negligence, then the alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State’s employees can be readily determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of expert testimony. Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256 (1st Dept 1986). Similarly, the State may be found liable for ministerial neglect if its employees fail to comply with an institution’s own administrative procedures and protocols for dispensing medical care to inmates. Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7, 10 (2d Dept 1996).
In this case, only the testimony of the Claimant has been presented in support of any claim of malpractice. No competent medical evidence was presented through a treating physician or an expert witness whose opinion was based upon the available medical records to support the allegation of medical malpractice. There is no medical evidence on any medical issue and thus no proof that accepted standards of care were not met. Accordingly, the claim of medical malpractice must be dismissed.
Additionally, from this record there is no indication that the actions of medical caregivers amounted to simple negligence or ministerial neglect. Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, supra; Kagan v State of New York, supra; cf. Jacaruso v State of New York, Claim No. 97721 (Lebous, J., filed September 9, 2002). To the extent the claim can be read to assert such theories, any cause of action for negligence or ministerial neglect is also dismissed.
The Defendant’s motion to dismiss for failure to establish a prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved at the time of trial, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 109569 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

October 2, 2006
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. All quotations are to audio recordings unless otherwise indicated.