New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RODRIGUEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-016-048, Claim No. 108317


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:
Santo Rodriguez, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney GeneralBy: Roberto Barbosa, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 8, 2007
New York

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This decision follows the trial of the claim of Santo Rodriguez, in which it is alleged that on March 16, 2003, while claimant was incarcerated at Woodbourne Correctional Facility, he was assaulted by another inmate in a facility restroom.

Mr. Rodriguez testified that on the day in question, he was working in the mess hall and went to use the bathroom. He recalled that after entering, an inmate named Damon Shields came in, and without provocation, assaulted him, knocking out a tooth and bloodying his nose. According to claimant, “there was supposed to be one inmate at a time. The officer let the other inmate in and he assaulted me.” Rodriguez described his attacker as having “mental health issues” that the correction officers knew of and “didn’t do anything about . . .”

On cross-examination, claimant conceded that prior to the assault, he had not had any problems with Shields, that Shields was not on his “enemies list,” and that he did not know of any prior assaults by Shields.

In Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247, 252-53, 754 NYS2d 621, 624 (2002) (citations omitted), the Court of Appeals stated that “[h]aving assumed physical custody of inmates, who cannot protect and defend themselves in the same way as those at liberty can, the State owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, even from attacks by fellow inmates . . .” Such duty comprehends reasonably foreseeable risks, which include not only those based on specific knowledge, e.g., that an inmate-attacker appears on the enemies list of his target, but looks also to “what the State reasonably should have known – for example, from its knowledge of risks to a class of inmates based on the institution’s expertise or prior experience, or from its own policies and practices designed to address such risks . . .” 99 NY2d at 254, 754 NYS2d at 625 (emphasis in original).

In this case, Rodriguez failed to show that the State had either actual or constructive knowledge. As set forth above, Shields was not on claimant’s enemies list, and there was no evidence presented that claimant was a known vulnerable inmate. Rodriguez’s assertion that correction officers knew of Shields’ alleged “mental health issues” is insufficient to show that such inmate was a known aggressor. As to claimant’s assertion that there was supposed to be only one inmate at a time in the bathroom, he provided no elaboration and failed to prove that there was a violation of any applicable policy or procedure.

In sum, Santo Rodriguez has failed to prove defendant’s negligence by a preponderance of the evidence and accordingly, claim no. 108317 is dismissed.


November 8, 2007
New York, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims