New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

YOUNG v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-037-507, Claim No. 106547


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:
Rushawn Young, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
New York State Attorney General
By: Joseph F. Romani, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 24, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Rushawn Young, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 106547 that he was assaulted by several correction officers (COs) and then denied adequate and timely medical treatment for his resulting injuries while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) at Elmira Correctional Facility (Elmira). Trial of the matter was held at Elmira on March 30, 2006.
Claimant testified on his own behalf and Defendant called three witnesses: James Aloi; Kevin Thatcher; and Joseph Longwell, all COs employed by DOCS. As set forth below, Claimant alleges that COs at Elmira assaulted him without provocation on May 16, 2002, while the COs maintain that there was no physical altercation or use of force incident involving Claimant on that date.
Claimant alleges in his claim and testified that on May 16, 2002, he was housed at Elmira in I Block, 5 Company, 16 Cell and was returning to his cell from the fieldhouse when he and another inmate named Lewis encountered COs Aloi, Colonie, Hopkins, Longwell, Thatcher and Webb. They were searched and then escorted to the end gate at 5 Company by COs Aloi and Hopkins. At this point CO Hopkins allegedly ordered Claimant to take his hands out of his pockets and when he complied he was grabbed and placed in a choke hold and then thrown to the floor where he was punched, kicked and struck on the head with a baton by the COs. He claims that the scuffle ended when Sergeant Cramer arrived on the scene and he was then dragged to his cell by COs Hopkins and Thatcher. As a result of this altercation, he claims to have sustained certain physical injuries for which he was denied medical treatment. No other witnesses testified for Claimant and he did not submit any documentary evidence to support his claim.
On cross-examination Claimant admitted that on May 16, 2002, he was issued an Inmate Misbehavior Report for interfering with the search of another inmate and for disobeying a direct order and was found guilty of the charges following a disciplinary hearing.
CO James Aloi, employed at Elmira for over sixteen years, testified that on May 16, 2002, he was on duty as the watch guard at the center gate when he witnessed that Claimant was ordered by other COs to stop interfering with the search of inmate Lewis and to return to his cell. Thereafter, CO Thatcher opened the end gate and Claimant walked unescorted to his cell without incident. CO Aloi stated that he did not have any physical contact with Claimant and did not observe him come in contact with any other COs on that occasion.
Sergeant Kevin Thatcher, a former CO, has been employed for approximately nineteen years at Elmira and testified that he was working with CO Aloi on May 16, 2002, but does not recall observing any incident involving an altercation with or use of force on Claimant.
Defendant also called CO Joseph Longwell to testify. CO Longwell, employed for eighteen years at Elmira, was on duty on May 16, 2002, but likewise does not recall any incident involving an altercation with or use of force on Claimant.
Correction officers are charged with the responsibility of maintaining order and discipline in correctional facilities under stressful circumstances (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 [1988]). It is well settled that correction officers may use physical force to maintain order and discipline in correctional facilities, but “only such degree of force as is reasonably required shall be used” (7 NYCRR 251-1.2[b]). The limited circumstances in which use of force is permitted by correction officers are set forth as follows:
“[a]n employee shall not lay hands on or strike an inmate unless the employee
reasonably believes that the physical force to be used is reasonably necessary:
for self-defense; to prevent injury to person or property; to enforce compliance
with a lawful direction; to quell a disturbance; or to prevent an escape.”
(7 NYCRR 251-1.2[d]).

In situations involving inmate allegations of excessive force by correction officers, such as here, the credibility of the witnesses is often the dispositive factor (Davis v State of New York, 203 AD2d 234 [1994]).
While there is clear conflict in the testimony, the Court finds the preponderance of the evidence to be that Claimant did not have a physical altercation with the COs at Elmira on May 16, 2002. The testimony of the officers was credible and consistent. Claimant’s proof that he was assaulted consisted of his sole testimony unsupported by any corroborating evidence. In sum, Claimant has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he was assaulted by Defendant’s agents.
Additionally, there is no evidence that Claimant requested and was denied medical attention. There is no medical evidence on any medical issue and thus no proof that accepted standards of care were not met.
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 [1990], lv denied 76 NY2d 701 [1990]; Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7 [1996]). Further, it is the State’s duty to render medical care “without undue delay” and, therefore, whenever “delays in diagnosis and/or treatment [are] a proximate or aggravating cause of [a] claimed injury”, the State may be liable (Marchione v State of New York, 194 AD2d 851, 855 [1993]).
In this case, only conclusory statements of Claimant have been presented in support of his claim that he suffered physical injury at the hands of COs and then was denied prompt and proper medical attention. No medical evidence was presented, through a treating physician or an expert witness whose opinion was based on Claimant’s medical records, to support his allegation that he was injured and then denied appropriate medical care. 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 [1976], lv denied 40 NY2d 804 [1976]). Therefore, the claim of inadequate or improper medical care must be dismissed.
Defendant’s motion to dismiss the claim for failure to establish a prima facie case, upon which decision was reserved at trial, is granted and Claim Number 106547 is dismissed in its entirety.

May 24, 2006
Buffalo, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims