New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MADDOX v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-030-018, Claim No. 108679


Synopsis


Correctional Facility’s failure to provide prescribed medical equipment as ministerial neglect, as well as cause of action for wrongful confinement both established after trial. Absent cross-examination or some documentary evidence to refute the version of events presented, inmate Claimant 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. Did not establish damages as to ministerial neglect; damages $160.00 for wrongful confinement.

Case Information

UID:
2007-030-018
Claimant(s):
BRUCE MADDOX
Claimant short name:
MADDOX
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108679
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
BRUCE MADDOX, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: DEWEY LEE, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 13, 2007
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

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 tins (sic) unit.”[1] 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 kind.

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 returned.

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.


June 13, 2007
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. All quotations are to trial notes or audio recordings unless otherwise indicated.