New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BRAGG v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-016-030, Claim No. 106608


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):

Alan C. Marin
Claimant’s attorney:
Demetrius Bragg, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney GeneralBy: Joseph Romani, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 24, 2007
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This decision follows the trial of the claim of Demetrius Bragg, in which it is alleged that on November 8, 1999, Mr. Bragg, then an inmate at Sullivan Correctional Facility, cut his left thumb on the drum of a dryer while working in the facility laundry.

Claimant testified that sometime in 1997 or 1998, he was assigned to work in the Sullivan laundry under the supervision of a civilian employee, Timmy Edwards. His tasks included folding sheets, as well as running the washing machines and dryers. With regard to the dryers, his job was to take wet clothes, which were contained in mesh bags, out of the washing machines and place them in the dryers.

Bragg explained that approximately a month before his November 8, 1999 accident, “a problem began occurring on several of the dryers . . . due to the wet clothes in the bags weighing down the dryers, it began to start tearing the dryer drum from the top . . . [and] it had created a razor like surface that was protruding from the dryer drum.” He recalled that on numerous occasions prior to November 8, his supervisor, who was aware of the problem, had instructed the inmates to put fewer bags in the dryers in order to prevent further tearing of the dryer drums, rather than “asking to get [them] fixed . . . .”

On November 8, as claimant was placing wet clothes in one of the dryers, his hand hit the “razor sharp” edge and when he looked at his hand, “it split open and blood began gushing out.” He immediately notified Edwards of the incident and was sent to the medical clinic for treatment. A Report of Inmate Injury and an Ambulatory Health Record indicate that Bragg suffered a one-inch laceration to his left thumb, for which he received four stitches. See claimant’s exhibits 1 and 2. Claimant testified that the stitches were removed about a week later.
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Mr. Edwards testified that he was the laundry supervisor in 1999, and he recalled that claimant had cut his thumb on a dryer and was sent to the medical unit for treatment. Edwards stated that about a week before claimant’s accident, the dryer drum had torn and developed a sharp edge, so he warned the inmates “to be careful.” According to Edwards, prior to Bragg’s accident, the dryer “was scheduled to be fixed.” However, defendant did not offer a copy of a work order regarding same. Nor did defendant attempt to contradict claimant’s assertion that he had sought in discovery all work orders relating to the dryers, and that those he received did not include one requesting repair of the separated dryer drum/sharp edge (see the “Maintenance Work Requests” that comprise claimant’s exhibit 3).
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While the State of New York is not an insurer of inmate safety, when it directs an inmate to perform work, it must provide him with a reasonably safe work environment. See, e.g., Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910, 591 NYS2d 868 (3d Dept 1992).

In this case, it is clear that the sharp edge on the dryer drum was an unsafe condition. Claimant established that defendant was aware of the condition for some time prior to his accident, but failed to remedy it or to take the dryer out of use. Moreover, no evidence was presented that claimant could have avoided the accident by “being careful,” as Edwards had advised the inmates to do; claimant was required to work in the laundry and as such, was required to manually move laundry into the dryer, past the sharp edge of the dryer drum. In view of the foregoing, I find defendant fully liable for the injuries to claimant caused by this accident.

As to the injury to claimant’s left thumb, Bragg, who is right-handed, stated that, “there was no infection or anything of that nature . . . no tendons [were] cut. It was just a large gash that required sutures . . . .” He added that he felt stiffness and pain in his thumb at times, but elaborated no further. In view of the foregoing, I make no award for any future pain and suffering. With respect to past pain and suffering, I find that claimant sustained damages in the amount of one thousand dollars.

Accordingly, Demetrius Bragg is awarded the sum of one thousand dollars ($1,000). To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to subdivision two of §11-a of the Court of Claims Act. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

July 24, 2007
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims