New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MITCHELL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-015-236, Claim No. 111167-A, Motion No. M-73536


Synopsis


Motion to dismiss pro se inmate claim for failure to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) was granted in part. Claims for wrongful confinement which failed to set forth the dates of confinement were dismissed.

Case Information

UID:
2007-015-236
Claimant(s):
MARK MITCHELL
Claimant short name:
MITCHELL
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111167-A
Motion number(s):
M-73536
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Mark Mitchell, Pro SeNo Appearance
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Dennis M. Acton, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
October 1, 2007
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

The defendant moves for dismissal of this claim pursuant to CPLR 3211(a) (8), 3212 and Court of Claims Act 11(b). The motion is premised solely on the contention that the claim is insufficiently specific to meet the statutory criteria set forth in Section 11(b) of the Court of Claims Act. The claim filed on July 21, 2005 asserts the following causes of action:
(1) Negligent[ly] transferring claimant, (2) Failure to properly monitor and reserve claimants (sic) right to protective custody, (3) Transfer of claimant was motivated by desire of correctional officials to punish claimant for exercising his constitutionally protected rights, (4) False imprisonment, wrongful excessive confinement, (5) Deliberate Indifference to claimants (sic) Mental Health needs.

As stated in the claim, the first three causes of action arise from the alleged conduct of correction officials in transferring the claimant from the long-term high security protective custody unit at Clinton Correction Facility to Great Meadow Correctional Facility on April 11, 2005. It is alleged that the transfer was in retaliation for the claimant's exercise of his constitutional rights to freedom of speech and access to the courts. In this regard the claimant alleges that as of September 23, 2004, the date he filed a motion pursuant to CPL 440.10[1], prison officials unlawfully restricted his access to the facility law library. The claimant allegedly lodged complaints which were met with the threat that the claimant would be subject to disciplinary action and transfer if he did not cease his efforts to gain access to the law library (claim, par. 8). Thereafter, claimant alleges that a "wrongful" misbehavior report was issued in retaliation for the claimant's exercise of his constitutionally protected right to petition the government for redress regarding the criminal conviction for which he was incarcerated (claim, pars. 9, 11,13). The conduct charged in the misbehavior report allegedly resulted in a finding of guilt, which was affirmed on appeal[2]. Claimant alleges that as a result of the charges brought against him he was confined to "keylock" for 25 days and suffered a loss of packages, commissary and telephone privileges. The dates the confinement occurred are not alleged.

Claimant alleges that sometime after his transfer from Clinton Correctional Facility, he was wrongfully "keylocked" for 22 days pending the investigation of his request for protective custody (see claim, pars. 19, 20).

Lastly, the claimant alleges that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to his mental health needs in unnecessarily exposing the claimant to long periods of danger by failing to isolate him from certain enemies with the knowledge that this could lead to mental health problems for the claimant.

The law is clear that the State’s waiver of immunity under Section 8 of the Court of Claims Act is contingent upon claimant’s compliance with the specific conditions set forth in article II of the Act (see, Lepkowski v. State of New York, 1 NY3d 201, 206 [2003]). “Because suits against the State are allowed only by the State’s waiver of sovereign immunity and in derogation of the common law, statutory requirements conditioning suit must be strictly construed” (Lichtenstein v. State of New York, 93 NY2d 911, 913 [1999]). Section 11(b) of the Court of Claims Act places five specific substantive conditions upon the State's waiver of sovereign immunity by requiring the claim to specify: (1) the time when the claim arose; (2) the place where such claim arose; (3) the nature of the claim; (4) the items of damage or injuries claimed to have been sustained and, (5) the total sum claimed, except in an action to recover damages for personal injury, medical, dental or podiatric malpractice or wrongful death.

Defendant contends that the claim fails to meet the criteria established by Court of Claims Act § 11(b). While the claim is lengthy and difficult to decipher, it does set forth the information required by Court of Claims Act § 11 (b) with respect to the first three causes of action alleged, all of which relate to the alleged retaliatory transfer of the claimant out of long-term protective custody. As for the time when and the place where the claim arose, the claimant alleges that the retaliatory transfer occurred on April 11, 2005 when he was transferred from Clinton Correctional Facility to Great Meadow Correctional Facility.

As to the nature of the claim, the statement must provide sufficient details to enable the State "to investigate the claim[s] promptly and to ascertain its liability under the circumstances" (Lepkowski v State of New York, supra at 207, quoting Heisler v State of New York, 78 AD2d 767, 767 [1980] ). The first three causes of action arising out of the alleged retaliatory transfer sufficiently apprised the State of the nature of the claim[3]. The injuries claimed to have been sustained are physical and mental anguish, and the total sum claimed is stated. Thus, the first three causes of action stemming from the alleged retaliatory transfer meet the pleading requirements set forth in Court of Claims Act § 11 (b).

A different conclusion is reached, however, with respect to the claims for wrongful confinement. Claimant alleges that he was wrongfully confined on two occasions: the first for a period of 25 days following the issuance of an allegedly wrongful misbehavior report on an unspecified date, and the second for a period of 22 days sometime after his transfer to Great Meadow Correctional Facility during the course of a protective custody investigation. The dates of confinement are not set forth in the claim. Accordingly, the wrongful confinement claims must be dismissed as they fail to meet the pleading requirements of Court of Claims Act § 11 (b).

The claim for deliberate indifference to the claimant's mental health needs appears to arise from the allegation that the claimant was not afforded protective custody as requested. Neither the time when nor the place where the claim arose are set forth in the claim. This claim must also be dismissed as the State is not required to "ferret out or assemble information that section 11 (b) obligates the claimant to allege" (Lepkowski v State of New York, 1 NY3d at 208)

The defendant's motion to dismiss is granted as to causes of action for wrongful confinement and deliberate indifference to his mental health needs and is otherwise denied.



October 1, 2007
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated June 5, 2007;
  2. Affidavit of Dennis M. Acton sworn to June 5, 2007.

[1]. The CPL 440.10 motion was related to the claimant's criminal conviction of the charges for which he was incarcerated.
[2]. Notably, the claimant did not specify in the claim the nature of the charges filed against him in the misbehavior report.

[3]. Whether or not the defendant is immune from liability as alleged in its second defense asserted in its answer is a question not at issue in this motion.