New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
TRIFTSHAUSER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2006-031-050, Claim No. 110195, Motion Nos. M-71445, M-71482

Synopsis

Claim which alleges medical negligence and malpractice which occurred at County Facility fails to state a cause of action against the State of New York. Defendant's motion for dismissal of the claim is granted. Claimant's motion to strike certain affirmative defenses set forth in Defendant's Answer is denied as moot.

Case information

UID: 2006-031-050
Claimant(s): CLARK TRIFTSHAUSER
Claimant short name: TRIFTSHAUSER
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) : The caption has been amended sua sponte to reflect the only proper Defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 110195
Motion number(s): M-71445, M-71482
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant's attorney: OTTAVIANO & SANSONE, L.L.P.
BY: JOHN S. SANSONE, ESQ.
Defendant's attorney: HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: JAMES L. GELORMINI, ESQ.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: July 20, 2006
City: Rochester
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results: 45 AD3d 1354
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The following papers, numbered 1 to 12, were read on motion by Claimant to strike certain affirmative defenses asserted in Defendant's Answer, and on motion by Defendant for dismissal of the claim:

1. Claimant's Notice of Motion (M-71445), filed March 17, 2006;

2. Affidavit of John S. Sansone, Esq., sworn to March 13, 2006, with attached exhibits;

3. Defendant's Notice of Motion (M-71482), filed March 27, 2006;

4. Affirmation of James L. Gelormini, Esq., dated March 24, 2006, with attached exhibit;

5. Affidavit of Catherine Felker, sworn to March 21, 2006, with attached exhibit;

6. Defendant's Memorandum of Law, dated March 24, 2006;

7. Affidavit of John S. Sansone, Esq., sworn to April 10, 2006, with attached exhibits;

8. Affidavit of Clark Triftshauser, sworn to April 7, 2006, with attached exhibits;

9. Claimant's Memorandum of Law, dated April 10, 2006;

10. Reply Affirmation of James L. Gelormini, Esq., dated April 14, 2006, with attached exhibit;

11. Defendant's Reply Memorandum of Law, dated April 14, 2006;

12. Filed Documents: Claim and Answer.

BACKGROUND

In his underlying claim, Clark Triftshauser alleges causes of action for medical malpractice and negligence against the State of New York relating to care and treatment Claimant received at the Wyoming County Community Hospital ("WCCH"), a facility owned and operated by the County of Wyoming. According to Claimant, an inmate in the care and custody of the Department of Correctional Services at the time, he was taken from Groveland Correctional Facility to the WCCH, where he was given the wrong type of blood by a maternity nurse working on the second floor of the facility. Claimant alleges that the improper transfusion has left him with permanent disabilities.

CURRENT MOTIONS

There are presently two motions before the court. Claimant has filed motion M-71445in which he seeks an order striking the sixth and seventh affirmative defenses asserted in Defendant's Answer. Defendant has filed motion M-71482 in which it seeks dismissal of the claim. As Defendant's motion is dispositive, I will address it first.

Defendant seeks dismissal of the claim for failure to state a cause of action against the State of New York. For purposes of this motion, counsel for the State does not dispute that Claimant was the victim of malpractice but asserts that, even if he was, the malpractice was not the result of any improper action or inaction by an employee or agent of the State. Therefore, Defendant asserts that the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over this matter.

Claimant argues that even though the WCCH is operated by the County of Wyoming and the nurse is an employee of Wyoming County and not the State, there are several reasons that the Defendant's motion should be denied. These are: 1) he was in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services at the time of the incident; 2) he had no choice in deciding where he was to receive his treatment; 3) the only other patients on his floor were all inmates and they were guarded by correction officers; 4) a contract existed between the State and County which he alleges requires the State to provide a defense for actions relating to the care provided.

I find the Claimant's arguments are without merit. Claimant was well aware that he was no longer in a State facility and nothing contained in the claim sets forth actionable conduct by a State employee or agent. The only action taken by an agent of the State was the referral of Claimant to the WCCH. The mere referral of Claimant to the WCCH does not expose the State to liability for subsequent malpractice of the health care providers to whom Claimant was referred (see Impastato v DeGirolamo, 117 Misc 2d 786).

The Court of Claims is a court of limited jurisdiction with power to hear claims only against the State and certain public authorities (Court of Claims Act 9). The WCCH is not a State run facility and the individuals identified in the claim are not employees or agents of the State. It has been established that when a prison inmate is referred to an outside physician who, acting as an independent contractor, provides treatment only at outside facilities not owned and operated by the State, any malpractice that occurs in connection with such treatment does not give rise to a claim against the State (Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, lv denied 76 NY2d 701; Williams v State of New York, 164 Misc 2d 783; compare, Soltis v State of New York, 172 AD2d 919 [private practitioner examined and treated inmates inside the correctional facility]). Consequently, with respect to the allegations of malpractice involving treatment Claimant received at WCCH, he has failed to state a cause of action against the State upon which relief may be granted.

Based on the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, Defendant's motion (M-71482) to dismiss the claim is granted. Claimant's motion (M-71445) is denied as moot.

July 20, 2006

Rochester, New York

RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK

Judge of the Court of Claims