Bruce Maddox alleges in his claim that defendant’s agents at Green Haven
Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) negligently failed to provide him
with proper medical care causing him injury. Additionally, he alleges he was
wrongfully confined. Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional
Facility on April 13, 2007.
Claimant testified that on August 5, 2003 he was placed in the special housing
unit (SHU) at Green Haven pursuant to a disciplinary proceeding, and remained
there until September 23, 2003. At the time he was placed in SHU, he suffered
from back pain, for which he had been prescribed both a “back brace and a
When he was
placed in SHU, however, the “officers confiscated” these items,
although they were medically prescribed “and there was no security
reason” for taking them. At some point, officers said he could get the
items back, but then “it got lost in the shuffle” and as a result he
experienced “a whole lot of pain and suffering.” Indeed, he said
that he never received the tins unit back, but “got a new one last
year,” about which he then explained “that was for my hand, and is
unrelated to this.”
Additionally, he testified that he received a modification of the sentence
imposed in connection with the disciplinary proceeding underlying his placement
in SHU. As a result of that modification, he was to have been credited with
fifteen (15) days for his “pre-superintendent hearing confinement but
they did not deduct the fifteen (15) days.” Thus, he said, he was
“supposed to be released on September 7, 2003” but instead was not
released until September 23, 2003.
Claimant said that the “original copy of the claim” he submitted to
the court “if . . . [he] recalled correctly,” had copies of exhibits
attached, but “was lost” he said. When the Court scanned the file
to determine if perhaps there were documents or medical records contained
therein there was no indication that anything was attached or lost. Indeed, in
reviewing the written claim as well, there is no reference to attachments of any
Claimant was not cross-examined, and no other witnesses testified and no other
evidence was submitted.
It is “fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable
and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons,” including proper
diagnosis and treatment. Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789
(3d Dept 1990), lv denied 76 NY2d 701 (1990).
In a medical malpractice claim, the Claimant has the burden of proof and must
prove (1) a deviation or departure from accepted practice and (2) evidence that
such deviation was the proximate cause of the injury or other damage. A cause
of action is premised in medical malpractice when it is the medical treatment,
or the lack of it, that is in issue. A medical expert’s testimony is
necessary to establish, at a minimum, the standard of care. Spensieri v
Lasky, 94 NY2d 231 (1999).
If a claim can be read to allege simple negligence, or medical negligence, then
the alleged negligent omissions or acts by the State’s employees can be
readily determined by a fact finder using common knowledge without the necessity
of expert testimony. Coursen v New York Hosp.-Cornell Med. Ctr., 114
AD2d 254, 256 (1st Dept 1986). Similarly, the State may be found liable for
ministerial neglect if its employees fail to comply with an institution’s
own administrative procedures and protocols for dispensing medical care to
inmates. Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7, 10 (2d Dept 1996).
Under the circumstances described herein, the failure to provide prescribed
medical equipment is in the category of simple negligence or ministerial
neglect, rather than medical malpractice. Coursen v New York Hosp.-Cornell
Med. Ctr., supra; Kagan v State of New York, supra.
To establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a
“species” of the tort of false imprisonment, [Gittens v State of
New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 (Ct Claims 1986)], a claimant must show
“ . . . (1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the . . .
[claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the . . . [claimant] did not
consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged
. . . ” Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 (1975),
cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929.
Claimant presented as a credible witness, whose testimony was uncontradicted.
Indeed absent cross-examination or some documentary evidence to refute the
version of events presented, he has satisfied his burden of establishing his
claim by a preponderance of the evidence, at least in terms of liability with
regard to both causes of action.
With respect to the cause of action regarding a failure to provide his medical
equipment, however, claimant has not established any damages, in that he has
stated only that he was in pain, but not how such pain is any different in
degree or kind when his back brace or his tins unit or both is or are available.
Additionally, the testimony was equivocal as to when same was prescribed and/or
With respect to his cause of action for wrongful confinement, claimant has
established without contradiction that he was kept an additional sixteen (16)
days after his disciplinary sentence was to have ended, and thus is entitled to
compensation for such confinement. The Court finds that the amount of $10.00
per day for a total of $160.00 in damages adequately compensates him for the
loss. It is ordered that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may
be recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2)
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.