New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WOOD v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-032-506, Claim No. 105970


Case Information

1 1.The caption of this action has been amended by the Court, sua sponte, to indicate that the State of New York is the only properly named defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption of this action has been amended by the Court, sua sponte, to indicate that the State of New York is the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
David Wood, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Michele M. Walls, Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 8, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In April 2002, claimant filed this action alleging negligence and medical malpractice. After a trial held on April 20, 2006, the Court finds as follows. Claimant alleges that on March 28, 2001, at approximately 2:30 P.M., he slipped on a puddle of water while he was working in the dormitory laundry room. He claims that a washing machine malfunctioned and, before maintenance arrived to fix it, water leaked on the floor causing him to slip and fall. Although claimant alleged that the Franklin Correctional Facility was negligent for failing to keep the dormitory safe and secure, he offered no proof at trial in support of this allegation. The Court, therefore, deems this part of his claim abandoned. However, he also alleged medical malpractice and negligence "towards diagnosis, treatment and other more general treatment toward my rehabilitation" (Claim, ¶ 2).
At trial, claimant produced documentary evidence and oral testimony of his treatment by the medical staff. Claimant was seen in the medical facility at the prison several times on March 28, 2001, where he reported that he twisted his left leg and ankle. He was provided an ice wrap, Tylenol, crutches and placed on cube restriction,
but was to eat his meals in the mess hall which was quite a distance away from his dormitory (Exhibit 1[i], [j], [p]). According to Nurse Chestnut Gordon, the nurse who initially saw claimant in the infirmary,
it is the policy of the infirmary that if an inmate gets crutches, the inmate is placed on cube restriction (Exhibit1[j]). She also testified that although inmates are restricted to their cubes for safety purposes, the infirmary never issues feed-up slips to those on crutches who were not admitted to the infirmary. Therefore, those inmates who are injured, but not seriously enough to be admitted to the hospital, must walk on their crutches to the mess hall no matter what the distance may be from their dormitory.
Claimant testified that he did not want to be on cube restriction, so he went back to the infirmary on March 29, 2001. The entry for that date indicates that he wanted to return his crutches so he could go back to his programs. He testified, however, that he did not return the crutches that day. He went back to the infirmary the next day and complained of pain and clicking in his left lateral knee area. He was placed on 72 hours of bed rest, cold compresses and analgesics. On April 10, 2001, his leg was finally X-rayed.
The X-ray showed that his left fibula was broken and he was sent to an outside hospital for treatment. The leg was not cast, just wrapped with an ace bandage, and partial weight bearing was allowed with crutches. He was to be seen by an orthopedist in four to six weeks (Exhibit 1[n]). On April 17, 2001, a nurse observed claimant walking without his crutches, so, in her opinion, they were “not medically necessary.” The crutches were returned, as they were 6 inches too short and not being used properly, and claimant was not given new crutches. Although claimant had not previously complained about his crutches because he was afraid he would receive a disciplinary ticket, when the crutches were taken away, he wrote to the nurse administrator asking for new crutches since he was still in pain. On April 23, 2001, he was issued proper crutches.
To establish a medical malpractice claim, a party "must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, a deviation or departure from accepted medical practice and that such departure was a substantial factor in producing [claimant's] injuries" (Valentine v Lopez, 283 AD2d 739, 741 [3d Dept 2001]). Further, "expert medical opinion is required to demonstrate merit as to matters not within the ordinary experience and knowledge of laypersons" (Quigley by Kantrowitz v Jabbur, 124 AD2d 398, 399 [3d Dept 1986]). Medical negligence, in essence, alleges negligent omissions or commissions by State caregivers which can be readily determined by the fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity of expert testimony. This theory is 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 [1st Dept 1986]).
It is clear to this Court that claimant was not issued the proper size crutches on March 28, 2001. This Court deems such action by the medical staff to be medical negligence. A medical expert was not required in this case because, by their own admission, the nursing staff admitted the crutches were too short in claimant’s medical records (Exhibit 1 [m]). Claimant is, therefore, awarded $100.00 per day for each day that he was required to use the short crutches for his broken leg and the time period that they were taken away from him. As such, claimant is awarded $2,600.00, with appropriate interest. All motions not heretofore decided are denied. To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

May 8, 2006
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[2].Cube restriction is essentially bed rest. The inmate is not allowed to walk about the dormitory.
[3].She appeared defensive at trial.
[4].There was testimony by Gordon and claimant about why his leg was not x-rayed between March 28 and 30, 2001. Gordon claims that he did not want the X-ray. Claimant testified that he did not want the X-ray of his ankle, which is what was approved, because his ankle felt much better on March 29, 2001, but his leg continued to hurt. The record showed that he complained of the clicking in the lateral knee area on March 30, 2001, yet that area was not X-rayed until April 10, 2001.