New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LEWIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-028-560, Claim No. 113060, Motion Nos. M-73107, M-73226


An action for wrongful confinement is dismissed as untimely, as such a cause of action accrues when the confinement ends. Neither party was entitled to summary judgment because there remained an unresolved issue as to whether Claimant’s disciplinary hearing was conducted in compliance with the governing rules and regulations and, if not, whether compliance with such would have altered the outcome of the hearing.

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):
M-73107, M-73226
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Defendant’s attorney:
BY: Michael T. Krenrich, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 16, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following papers were read on Claimant’s motion for summary judgment in his favor and on Defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the claim or, alternatively, for an order of dismissal on the ground that the Claim is untimely or for an order compelling Claimant to accept its Answer:

1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of James Lewis, pro se;

2. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich, AAG, with annexed Exhibits; and

3. Reply (“Verified Answer to Notice of Motion”) of James Lewis, pro se.

Filed papers: Claim; Answer

This is a claim for wrongful confinement in a prison setting that is alleged to have accrued at Coxsackie Correctional Facility in March 2005.[1] According to Claimant, the assistant appointed to help Claimant in his defense at a Tier 3 hearing failed to obtain information and evidence that would have altered the outcome of the hearing, and the Hearing Officer failed to postpone the hearing until such evidence could be marshaled. He also alleges that the penalty imposed at the hearing was excessive and harsh. Subsequently, after Claimant had served his sentence, the determination of the hearing was administratively reversed, after it was determined that Claimant’s role in the underlying incident “did not warrant disciplinary action” (Claim, Exhibit J).

In support of his motion for summary judgment, Claimant recites the basic allegations of his Claim, insofar as they relate to the results of the Tier 3 hearing and the subsequent reversal of that hearing’s determination. In support of his motion, Claimant references the several exhibits that were annexed to his Claim, including the Exhibit quoted above setting forth the reason for the administrative reversal.

It is well-established that the State is entitled to absolute immunity from claims for money damages for confinement or other injury resulting from the discretionary, quasi-judicial actions of prison officials in connection with prison disciplinary proceedings, even if the underlying result of such proceedings are later reversed administratively or as the result of a successful article 78 proceeding, as long as the disciplinary proceeding was conducted in accordance with the rules and procedures established by the Department of Correctional Services (hereinafter “DOCS”) (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 [1988]; Davis v State of New York, 262 AD2d 887 [3d Dept 1999], lv denied 93 NY2d 819 [1999]). If in the course of the proceeding, prison officials fail to comply with one of the ministerial rules or regulations governing such disciplinary hearings, that absolute immunity is lost and liability may be imposed if, and only if, it is proven that the violation caused actual injury to the inmate (Rivera v State of New York, UID#2006-028-008, Claim No. 102781 [Ct Cl Feb. 8, 2006], Sise, P.J., citing Vasquez v State of New York, 10 AD3d 825 [3d Dept 2004] and Henderson v Coughlin, 163 Misc 2d 20 [Ct Cl 1994]). In other words, the Claimant must prove that if officials had complied with the rule or regulation in question, the result of the hearing would have been different and he would not have been confined or suffered other injury.

In the instant case, Claimant alleges that the Tier 3 hearing officer “failed to follow regulatory procedure for disciplinary hearings” (Claim, ¶ 7), but he does not identify any specific regulation. And while he also asserts that this failure altered the outcome of the proceeding, he does not prove that this is the logical or inevitable result. To the extent that the Claim can be read to allege that the hearing officer’s failure to postpone or adjourn the hearing was the wrongful act, determining whether or not to grant an adjournment is typically the type of discretionary decision-making for which the State is absolutely immune. The Court is not aware of, nor has Claimant identified, any regulation that automatically requires a hearing officer to postpone or adjourn proceedings. If such a regulation existed, Claimant would have to establish that it was violated in the situation presented here and, in addition, that the outcome of the proceeding would have been different if the adjournment had been granted.

Accordingly, the submissions now before the Court do not establish that Claimant is entitled to summary judgment in his favor. “The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case” (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]), and such showing must be made “by producing evidentiary proof in admissible form” (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562 [1980]). In the absence of admissible evidence sufficient to preclude any material issue of fact, summary judgment is unavailable (Ayotte v Gervasio, 81 NY2d 1062, 1063 [1993]; Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]).

Summary judgment is similarly unavailable to Defendant. Claimant has alleged that in carrying out the disciplinary hearing, prison officials violated a rule or regulation and that such violation altered the outcome of the hearing. He is entitled to prove these allegations. (It should be noted that he must also prove that the rule or regulation in question was ministerial in nature.) In order to support its motion for summary judgment, Defendant was required to tender sufficient evidence “to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case” (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]). In this instance, this would require Defendant to establish that there is no relevant rule or regulation that was or could have been violated in the conduct of Claimant’s disciplinary hearing, and this was not done. Alternatively, if there was a relevant regulation that may have been violated, Defendant could have established either that the regulation in question imposed a discretionary or quasi-judicial duty or, if ministerial, that violation of the regulation did not affect the outcome of the hearing. While it appears unlikely that Claimant will be able to make the proof necessary to prevail when this action is tried, summary judgment should not be granted where there is any doubt as to the existence of a material issue of fact (Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395, 404 [1957]).

Defendant also seeks dismissal of this Claim on the ground that it is untimely. Claimant’s Tier 3 hearing was concluded on April 8, 2005 (Claim, Exhibit B). Although he was initially sentenced to 180 days’ confinement to Special Housing Unit and loss of privileges, the duration of that sentence was subsequently reduced to 90 days (id. Exhibit E). This would suggest that his confinement ended on or about July 7, 2005. In his affirmation, defense counsel states that Claimant was released from confinement on June 26, 2005 (Krenrich Affirmation, ¶ 19), and Claimant does not dispute this assertion in his reply affidavit. Taking the latest possible date, the 90-day period in which a Claim had to be filed and served or a Notice of Intention served (Court of Claims Act § 10[3]) would have expired on October 5, 2005. The Claim in this action was filed on December 1, 2006, and a copy of the Claim was served on Defendant on December 7, 2006.

Claimant contends that his cause of action accrued on the day that he received notice of the administrative reversal, October 17, 2006. This is simply not the law. A cause of action for wrongful confinement within a prison setting is recognized as a “species” of false imprisonment (Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 [Ct Cl 1986]), and a cause of action for false imprisonment accrues on the date that the imprisonment or confinement ends (see Jackson v Police Dept. of City of New York, 119 AD2d 551 [2d Dept 1986]; Boose v City of Rochester, 71 AD2d 59, 65 [4th Dept 1979]; 59 NY Jur 2d, False Imprisonment and Malicious Prosecution § 118). Consequently, causes of action for wrongful confinement within a prison setting also accrue on the date the confinement ends (Ramirez v State of New York, 171 Misc 2d 677, 680 [Ct Cl 1997]). The claim is untimely.

For the reasons set forth above, Claimant’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED; Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED; and Defendant’s motion for dismissal of the claim on the ground of untimeliness is GRANTED. Claim No. 113060 is dismissed.

July 16, 2007
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. The Claim also contains allegations relating to medical treatment provided to or withheld from Claimant, but the demand for money damages is limited to “$100 dollars per day for every day confined in SHU.”