New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FIGUEROA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-010-034, Claim No. 112003


Synopsis


Claim for inmate inadequate dental treatment. Claim dismissed, no departure from good and accepted standards of care.

Case Information

UID:
2007-010-034
Claimant(s):
RAYMOND FIGUEROA
Claimant short name:
FIGUEROA
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
112003
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant’s attorney:
RAYMOND FIGUEROAPro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General for the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
August 13, 2007
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant seeks damages for injuries he allegedly sustained during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing). Claimant contends that, upon entering the New York State Correctional System in March 2005, an examination revealed that he was in need of dental work; however his treatment was delayed and not proper.


Claimant testified that after his initial examination, he made several requests to see a dentist (Exs. 2-4). He then filed a grievance regarding his treatment (Ex. 5). The grievance was denied:
“PER AGENCY POLICY, ROOT CANAL ON THE TWO (2) SPECIFIC TEETH IN QUESTION IS NOT PART OF THE DENTAL PROTOCOL AND WILL THEREFORE NOT BE UNDERTAKEN. GRIEVANT IS SCHEDULED FOR AN APPOINTMENT WITH THE DENTAL DEPARTMENT ON 2/7/06, AND HE IS ADVISED TO REVIEW HIS ISSUES WITH THE DOCTOR AT THAT TIME.”

(id.). Claimant further stated that after Dr. Stukes and Dr. Willim treated claimant’s cavities, claimant experienced pain. He further maintained that other “procedures should have been done” and it was wrong to have “pain.”[1]

Dr. Susan Stukes, a dentist employed at Sing Sing since 1997, testified that she treated claimant twice in 2005 and examined his dental records (Ex. A). Stukes explained that when claimant entered the correctional system, he had several large cavities and the beginnings of infections. She also noted that an incomplete root canal, which claimant has previously undergone, had since deteriorated. Stukes maintained that claimant’s complaints of pain and sensitivity to hot and cold liquids is common after having undergone fillings. Claimant’s gums had also started to recede and his condition was treated appropriately. In sum, Stukes testified that claimant had multiple dental issues which were appropriately addressed.

It is well settled that the State owes a duty of ordinary care to provide its charges with adequate dental and medical care (see Mullally v State of New York, 289 AD2d 308; Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7, 8). To prove that the State failed in its duty and committed malpractice, claimant must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the State departed from good and accepted standards of care and that such departure was a substantial factor or proximate cause of the alleged injury (see Mullally v State of New York, supra; Kaminsky v State of New York, 265 AD2d 306). A departure from good and accepted medical practice cannot be inferred from expert testimony; rather the expert must expressly state, with a degree of medical certainty, that defendant’s conduct constitutes a deviation from the requisite standard of care (see Stuart v Ellis Hosp., 198 AD2d 559; Sohn v Sand, 180 AD2d 789; Salzman v Alan S. Rosell, D.D.S., P.C., 129 AD2d 833).

Claimant must prove, inter alia, that his “injuries proximately resulted from the defendant’s departure from the required standard of performance” (Tonetti v Peekskill Community Hosp., 148 AD2d 525). Here, claimant offered no evidence to establish the requisite standard of care or that the treatment rendered constituted a departure from the applicable standard. Significantly, claimant failed to present any competent medical evidence to support his allegations of malpractice. Claimant’s own unsubstantiated assertions are insufficient to establish merit and a prima facie case (see, Wells v State of New York, 228 AD2d 581; Mosberg v Elahi, 176 AD2d 710, affd 80 NY2d 941; Quigley v Jabbur, 124 AD2d 398). Moreover, the evidence is inconclusive and purely speculative as to whether such conduct, even if negligent, was a proximate cause of claimant’s condition (see Naughton v Arden Hill Hosp., 215 AD2d 810 [even assuming defendant committed malpractice in its failure to diagnose and admit patient to hospital, there was no proof of proximate cause, i.e., that, had the patient been admitted, the risk of a heart attack would have been prevented or lessened]; Brown v State of New York, 192 AD2d 936 [no proof that delay in treatment contributed to the loss of claimant’s larynx]). “Moreover, even assuming improper delay in providing treatment, it was incumbent upon claimant to show by competent expert evidence that the delay was a cause of his alleged ensuing medical problems” (see Trottie v State of New York, 39 AD3d 1094, 1095).

ACCORDINGLY, LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 112003.

August 13, 2007
White Plains, New York

HON. TERRY JANE RUDERMAN
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. All quotations are to the trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.