New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-044-508, Claim No. 109210, Motion No. M-72136


Synopsis


Although defendant’s failure to respond to discovery demands was willful, there was no prejudice to claimant and his motion for sanctions is denied.

Case Information

UID:
2006-044-508
Claimant(s):
WILLIE DAVIS
Claimant short name:
DAVIS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
109210
Motion number(s):
M-72136
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
CATHERINE C. SCHAEWE
Claimant’s attorney:
WILLIS DAVIS, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERALBY: GEOFFREY B. ROSSI, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
October 19, 2006
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, moves for an order pursuant to CPLR 3124 to compel defendant State of New York (hereinafter “defendant”) to respond to claimant's interrogatories, and further moves for sanctions for defendant's failure to respond to this discovery device.[1] Defendant opposes the motion.

It is well-settled that a trial court has broad discretion in controlling discovery and in determining when and to what extent that a discovery sanction should be imposed (Saratoga Harness Racing v Roemer, 290 AD2d 928, 929; Puccia v Farley, 261 AD2d 83, 85).

Claimant filed a claim on April 19, 2004, asserting that defendant provided him negligent medical treatment for a shoulder ailment which subsequently required surgery. Since claimant filed this motion on August 14, 2006, defendant has served and filed responses to claimant's interrogatories.[2] Accordingly, claimant's motion to compel discovery is denied as moot. Claimant's motion for sanctions remains, however.

Claimant's initial discovery demand was received by defendant on August 2, 2004.[3] That demand included a request for copies of claimant's medical records. Geoffrey B. Rossi, Assistant Attorney General, responded on defendant's behalf by letter dated October 4, 2004, stating that a copy of claimant's medical records could be provided to him at the cost of $0.25 per page. AAG Rossi alternatively advised that claimant could inspect his own medical records, which were maintained at Attica Correctional Facility where claimant resided at the time. AAG Rossi requested that claimant indicate whether he wanted copies of the records, or whether he simply wanted to inspect them.[4] Claimant never responded to AAG Rossi's letter.[5]

Instead, claimant served the interrogatories at issue in this motion. Those interrogatories are dated June 2, 2005. Claimant subsequently sent AAG Rossi a letter dated July 7, 2005, asking that defendant respond to the June 2, 2005 interrogatories, and advising that claimant reserved his rights to move for sanctions and/or orders of preclusion if discovery was not had.[6] Upon receiving no response from AAG Rossi, claimant sent another letter dated July 27, 2005, reiterating his request that defendant respond to the interrogatories.[7] Again, AAG Rossi did not respond, according to claimant (¶ 4 of claimant's Affidavit in support of motion to compel).

Defendant does not contradict claimant's assertion that no reply was ever given to claimant's two letters requesting a response to the interrogatories. Rather, defendant argues that the medical records previously demanded by claimant would have furnished claimant with the information he requested through the interrogatories. Defendant contends that the interrogatories were therefore an unduly repetitive request for production under CPLR 3103 (a), and suggests that the purpose of interrogatories is to supplement discoverable evidence, rather than duplicating “already disclosed” evidence (¶ 7 of Affirmation in Opposition to Motion to Compel by G. Rossi, AAG).[8] Defendant argues that claimant has therefore failed to establish that defendant's prior omission to disclose was “willful”.

The Court cannot agree that defendant's failure to respond to claimant's interrogatories was not willful, particularly in light of claimant's two supplementary letters requesting a response, which were completely ignored by defendant. However, while the Court does not condone defendant's failure to respond, the Court does not discern that claimant has suffered any prejudice, particularly in light of his ability to personally review his medical record. Accordingly, claimant's motion to impose sanctions on defendant is denied (see Saratoga Harness Racing, supra; Puccia, supra).



October 19, 2006
Binghamton, New York

HON. CATHERINE C. SCHAEWE
Judge of the Court of Claims


The following papers were considered on this motion:
(1) Notice of motion to compel discovery, affidavit of Willie Davis sworn to August 9, 2006 and attached exhibits.

(2) Affirmation of Geoffrey B. Rossi, AAG dated September 7, 2006 and attached exhibits, in opposition to motion.
Filed Papers: Claim filed April 19, 2004; Verified Answer filed on June 21, 2004; Claimant’s first set of interrogatories filed on June 6, 2005.



[1]. Claimant also moves to strike any objections to the interrogatories, arguing that such objections were not timely made (see CPLR 3133 [a]). Defendant has responded to the interrogatories without raising any objection and, thus, that portion of the motion seeking to strike objections is denied as moot. Although AAG Rossi has indicated that he does not understand several of the interrogatories in their present form, if claimant can rephrase such questions, presumably defendant will provide appropriate responses.
[2]. Exhibit A to Affirmation in Opposition to Motion, by G. Rossi, AAG.
[3]. ¶ 4 of Affirmation in Opposition to Motion of G. Rossi, AAG.
[4]. Exhibit B of Affirmation in Opposition to Motion by G. Rossi, AAG.
[5]. ¶ 6, Affirmation in Opposition to Motion by G. Rossi, AAG.
[6]. Exhibit B of Motion to Compel.
[7]. Exhibit C of Motion to Compel.
[8]. Notwithstanding the alleged duplication of discovery, defendant did not move for a protective order under CPLR 3103 (a).