New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SHEILS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-032-045, Claim No. 110009, Motion Nos. M-70608, CM-70983


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:
Kevin Sheils, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Belinda A. Wagner, Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 15, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant submits a notice of motion which seeks "to compel disclosure". Claimant fails, however, to submit an affidavit or other supporting documentation. Thereafter, defendant cross-moved to dismiss the second and third causes of action of the claim, and for a protective order or vacatur of interrogatories.

On October 25, 2004, claimant filed this claim alleging negligence (first cause of action), assault (second cause of action) and denial of medical treatment (third cause of action). Specifically, he alleges that on at least 15 occasions between May 30, 2003 and October 5, 2003, claimant requested protection from guards at Clinton Correctional Facility due to retaliation for filing administrative and judicial complaints. As a result, claimant alleges that he was interviewed by the Inspector General on October 31, 2003, for an incident on July 26, 2003. After his interview, claimant alleges that he returned to his cell and was subject to mistreatment, including physical assault by correction officers. Claimant alleges that he served a notice of intention on December 17, 2003 and, thereafter, filed his claim in October 2004. Subsequently, claimant served three sets of interrogatories, prompting the motion and cross-motion.

With respect to claimant's motion to compel, the Court denies this motion as claimant fails to support his request for relief with a supporting affidavit or other documentary submissions (CPLR 2214). In so doing, the Court notes that discovery is a process that is generally conducted between the litigants. The Court's intervention in this process is warranted only after attempts between the parties to resolve an issue have failed. At that juncture, claimant may move the Court to compel responses by serving a notice of motion and supporting documentation, including a supporting affidavit (CPLR 2214).

Turning to defendant's cross-motion, defendant seeks dismissal of the second and third causes of action and a protective order from interrogatories. Defendant argues that the only allegations contained in the notice of intention relate to the October 31, 2003 incident and, thus, the other allegations are untimely. Inasmuch as the notice of intention has not been provided to the Court, defendant has not established that it is entitled to dismissal.

With respect to the protective order, defendant argues that claimant served the same set of interrogatories on June 16, 2005, August 18, 2005 and September 1, 2005. Defendant further argues that vacatur is appropriate because the demands are palpably improper and/or privileged material.

Given that claimant consents to the withdrawal of the interrogatories served on June 16, 2005 and August 18, 2005, the Court reviews only those interrogatories served on September 1, 2005. In this regard, it is well settled that a trial court has "broad discretionary power in controlling discovery" (Geary v Hunton & Williams, 245 AD2d 936, 938 [3d Dept 1997]). Inasmuch as defendant failed to object to the interrogatories within the 20-day period specified in CPLR 3122(a), the Court's review is limited to determining whether the requested material is privileged under CPLR 3101 or the demand is palpably improper (see Saratoga Harness Racing Inc. v Roemer 274 AD2d 887, 888 [3d Dept 2000]). "A disclosure request is palpably improper if it seeks information of a confidential and private nature that does not appear to be relevant to the issues in the case" (Titleserv, Inc. v Zenobio, 210 AD2d 314, 315-316 [2d Dept 1994]).

Here, a review of the interrogatories reveals that while some of the information requested is necessary to prosecute the action, a substantial portion is overbroad, burdensome, duplicitous, and palpably improper in that it seeks privileged or irrelevant material. Although under these circumstances, the remedy is often not "judicial pruning but vacatur of the entire demand and interrogatories" (Editel, New York v Liberty Studios, Inc., 162 AD2d 345, 346 [1st Dept 1990]), the Court does not strike the entire demand in the interests of judicial economy and to facilitate discovery. Rather, the Court confines claimant's request and interprets it to encompass the following: his institutional file relating to this incident, the log book of the hospital and claimant's cell block for the relevant times, misbehavior reports, unusual incident reports and Inspector General reports generated as a result of the incident, reports relating to any disciplinary action against the correction officers arising from this incident and videotapes and/or photographs of injuries arising from the incident or injuries. Defendant is to provide these materials to claimant within 30 days of the filing of this Decision and Order or request in camera review of the objectionable materials.[1] Claimant is advised to direct a written request for his medical records to the inmate records coordinator at his correctional facility, and a written request for his mental health records to his facility's mental heath professional pursuant to the procedure outlined in Mental Hygiene Law § 33.16.

As a final matter, the Court is confident that these materials will be sufficient for claimant to proceed with his claim. Upon review of the materials furnished by defendant, claimant is to notify the Court within 45 days if he is not ready to proceed to trial.

Accordingly, claimant’s motion is denied. Defendant's cross-motion is granted to the extent indicated and otherwise denied.

May 15, 2006
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Notice of Motion filed August 24, 2005;

2. Notice of Cross-Motion filed November 28, 2005;

3. Affirmation of Belinda A. Wagner filed November 28, 2005; Exhibits A-D annexed.

[1].In the event that in camera review is requested, defendant is to make an application on notice and provide the Court with a redacted and unredacted copy of the objectionable materials.