New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ROY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-031-513, Claim No. 101202


Claimant failed to demonstrate that he was the victim of excessive force, that he was illegally confined or that the State was negligent in providing adequate medical care. Claim 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:
New York State Attorney General
BY: TIMOTHY P. MULVEY, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 8, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, Edmond Roy, filed Claim No. 101202 on October 4, 1999, alleging that on October 6, 1998, while incarcerated at Lakeview Shock Correctional Facility, he was assaulted by correction officers and then denied appropriate medical care for the injuries he incurred in the assault. He also alleges that he was denied due process in an October 13, 1998 Tier III disciplinary hearing relating to the same October 6 incident. He, therefore, alleges that his confinement to keeplock for two months following the hearing was illegal.
Upon motion by Defendant at the conclusion of Claimant’s case, I dismissed Claimant’s medical malpractice cause of action due to Claimant’s failure to present expert medical testimony that the care he received had deviated from good and accepted standards of medical care (see Rossi v Arnot Ogden Med. Ctr., 268 AD2d 916; Spicer v Community Family Planning Council Health Ctr., 272 AD2d 317; Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516). I also dismissed Claimant’s medical neglect or negligence cause of action as such actions are limited to “those cases where the alleged negligent act may be readily determined by the trier of the facts based on common knowledge” (Coursen v New York Hospital-Cornell Med. Center, 114 AD2d 254, 256; Tatta v State of New York, 19 AD3d 817).
Also at the end of Claimant’s case, Defendant made a motion to dismiss Claimant’s illegal confinement cause of action. After a careful review of the testimony and the documents before me, especially the transcript of Claimant’s Tier III disciplinary hearing (Exhibit A), I now grant Defendant’s motion.
In the Inmate Misbehavior Report relating to the incident (Exhibit B), Mr. Roy was charged with four violations of the inmate code of conduct. These were: 104.13 (creating a disturbance); 100.11 (assault on staff); 107.10 (interference with staff); and 106.10 (disobeying a direct order). At his hearing, Claimant pled guilty to all but the assault charge and, with regard to that charge, he admitted that he might have shoved Correction Officer Coomber, but that he did not do so intentionally.
At trial, Claimant testified that at the disciplinary hearing, he had been coerced into pleading guilty to all of the charges against him except for the assault. He was found guilty of the assault after the hearing. He also alleges that he was not permitted to call his desired witnesses at the hearing. He asserts that this was a violation of his due process rights resulting in his confinement being illegal. I note, however, that the transcript indicates that Claimant failed to request any witnesses or to object at any time to the manner in which the hearing was conducted. There is also no evidence whatsoever that Claimant was coerced into pleading guilty to three of the four charges against him.
The actions of prison personnel involving inmate disciplinary matters are generally quasi-judicial and, unless they exceed the scope of their authority or violate applicable rules, are afforded absolute immunity (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887, lv denied 93 NY2d 819).
It was Claimant’s burden in this matter to demonstrate that he was denied due process at the hearing; that the disciplinary hearing was conducted in violation of the relevant rules. He has failed. There is no indication that Defendant violated any of its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, supra; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765; cf. Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399 [Ct Cl 1986]). Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to dismiss the portion of the claim asserting a cause of action for illegal confinement is granted.
With regard to the assault, Claimant testified that on October 6, 1998, he fell and was injured while running up a flight of stairs. He asserts that although he was “screaming or moaning” when correction officers arrived on the scene, rather than assist him, they assaulted him and caused further injury. He admits that he was excited at the time and upset about his injuries. He admits that he refused two direct orders from Officer Coomber to quiet down. He admitted in his disciplinary hearing that he was disruptive and that he pushed Officer Coomber.
Officer Coomber testified regarding his interaction with Claimant. He stated that Claimant was very agitated and screaming obscenities. When he directed Claimant to quiet down, Claimant refused. When he again directed Claimant to quiet down, Claimant pushed him in the chest area with both hands and knocked Officer Coomber backwards. It was at this time that Officer Coomber and Drill Instructor Bellinger restrained Claimant until assistance came.
Drill Instructor Bellinger also testified for Defendant. His testimony was in all respects consistent with that of Officer Coomber. He stated that Claimant seemed to be completely out of control at the time of the incident and that when Officer Coomber tried to calm him down, Claimant assaulted Officer Coomber. He believes that he and Officer Coomber used only as much force as was necessary to subdue Claimant until assistance arrived.
In situations involving inmate allegations of excessive force by a correction officer, such as here, the credibility of the respective witnesses is often the dispositive factor (Davis v State of New York, 203 AD2d 234). To determine, in a given instance, whether force was used and, if so, whether the force used was excessive or unreasonable, a Court must examine the specific circumstances confronting the officers or guards (see e.g. Lewis v State of New York, 223 AD2d 800; Quillen v State of New York, 191 AD2d 31; Brown v State of New York, 24 Misc 2d 358).
I find Claimant’s assertion that Officer Coomber and Drill Instructor Bellinger used excessive force without need or provocation lacking in credibility. This is especially evident in Exhibit A in which Claimant admits under oath to having been disruptive, having refused a direct order and having pushed Officer Coomber. By contrast, I find the testimony of each of Defendant’s witnesses to be both credible and consistent.
I find, therefore, that Claimant has failed to demonstrate a prima facie cause of action for excessive use of force.
Accordingly, Claim Number 101202 is hereby DISMISSED in its entirety.
Any and all motions on which the Court may have previously reserved decision or which were not previously determined are hereby denied.

May 8, 2006
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims