New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PIMENTEL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-028-009, Claim No. 106168, Motion No. M-71816


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):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
BY: Michael Rizzo, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 29, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


At trial of this action,[1] which is based on allegations that Claimant Hector L. Pimentel received inadequate medical care while incarcerated at Upstate Correctional Facility, Claimant testified that he first entered the custody of the Department of Correctional Services (hereinafter “DOCS”) in 1994. In 1999, he developed a hemorrhoid problem, and when he was transferred to Upstate Correctional Facility (hereinafter “Upstate”) in 2000, he complained about that problem to the medical staff upon intake. Two to three months after arriving at Upstate, on December 6, 2000, he was sent to be examined by Dr. Duell at Alice Hyde Hospital. As a result of that examination, surgery was recommended.

On February 12, 2001, a hemorrhoidectomy was performed on Claimant. It was performed on an outpatient basis and he was returned to the facility infirmary following surgery. He remained at the infirmary until February 14, at which time he returned to his quarters. Between that date and February 22, he made several complaints about discomfort that he was feeling, and on the 22nd, he observed bright red blood in the toilet. He summoned a corrections officer who observed the blood and left the room briefly. Claimant, who was continuing to bleed heavily, passed out at that point. When he came to, he was being tended by the officer and a nurse. Later that same day, Dr. Duell performed another operation to stop the bleeding. Claimant’s medical records (Exhibit 1) provide support for and are consistent with his account of the events set forth above.

Defendant called no witnesses.

The State has an obligation to provide ordinary and appropriate medical treatment to inmates in its institutions (Gordon v City of New York, 120 AD2d 562 [2d Dept 1986], affd 70 NY2d 839 [1987]) and to make proper diagnosis and treatment (id.; Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788 [3d Dept 1990], lv denied 76 NY2d 701). When, as here, there are allegations of medical malpractice involving patient treatment, three component duties are owed by the physician to the patient: (1) the duty to possess the requisite knowledge and skill such as is possessed by the average member of the medical profession; (2) a duty to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the application of professional knowledge and skill; and (3) the duty to use his or her best judgment in the application of this knowledge and skill (Littlejohn v State of New York, 87 AD2d 951, 952 [87 AD2d 951], citing Pike v Honsinger, 155 NY 201, 209- 210 [1898]). Claimant, therefore, must establish that Defendant’s medical staff failed in one or more of those duties and that that failure was a proximate cause of his damages, i.e., that it was a substantial factor in causing or exacerbating his injuries (Kennedy v Peninsula Hosp. Ctr., 135 AD2d 788 [2d Dept 1987]; Koster v Greenberg, 120 AD2d 644 [2d Dept 1986]).

In order to prove that Defendant failed in its duty toward claimant and that such failure was a substantial factor, it would be necessary for Claimant to present expert medical testimony (Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653 [3d Dept 1997], lv denied 91 NY2d 810 [1998]; Morgan v State of New York, 40 AD2d 891; see also Macey v Hassam, 97 AD2d 919). At a minimum, the claimant must present expert testimony that the defendant's conduct constituted a deviation from the requisite standard of care (Berger v Becker, 272 AD2d 565 [2d Dept 2000]). This is not a situation in which the matter can be determined by the experience and observation of a layperson (Fiore v Galang, 64 NY2d 999 [1985]; Koehler v Schwartz, 48 NY2d 807 [1979]; Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516 [2d Dept 1998]).

At the close of claimant’s proof, Defendant moved to dismiss the claim on the ground that Claimant failed to prove a prima facie case. The Court reserved on the motion and now grants it, because even if Claimant is afforded every inference possible “there is no rational process by which the trier of fact could base a finding in favor of the nonmoving party" (Staples v Sisson, 274 AD2d 779, 780 [3d Dept 2000]). The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of Defendant, dismissing Claim No. 106168.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

January 29, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. A motion seeking assignment of counsel and joinder of a necessary party (Motion No. M-71816) was brought by Claimant prior to trial and denied at trial. Appointment of private counsel, who would provide representation without receiving any compensation, is inappropriate unless the litigant is faced with a "grievous forfeiture or loss of a fundamental right" (Wills v City of Troy, 258 AD2d 849 [3d Dept 1999], quoting Morgenthau v Garcia, 148 Misc 2d 900, 903[NY Co Sup Ct 1990]; see also Matter of Smiley, 36 NY2d 433 [1975]; Jacox v Jacox, 43 AD2d 716 [2d Dept 1973]). In addition, this Court does not have jurisdiction over lawsuits against individuals, such as Dr. Duell, the party Claimant seeks to have joined as a defendant.