New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CUNNINGHAM v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-030-034, Claim No. 109581


Inmate’s wrongful confinement claim dismissed after trial. Correctional facility acted within rules and regulations in housing placement and limitation of privileges when claimant placed on “limited idle” or “limited privilege” status. The gravamen of claimant’s complaint appears to be terminology alone: he did not like being linked with inmates who had received disciplinary violations. This does not, however, establish a cause of action for wrongful confinement. His housing placement within the prison facility is privileged

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:
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
August 16, 2007
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Kenneth Cunningham alleges in his claim that defendant’s agents wrongfully confined him while he was an inmate at Green Haven Correctional Facility. Trial of the matter was held on May 11, 2007.

In his filed claim, Mr. Cunningham alleges that he was wrongfully confined from May 4, 2004 to May 10, 2004; again on May 11, 2004 to May 12, 2004; and finally on May 15, 2004, calling this a total of eight (8) days overall. [Claim Number 109581, ¶¶ 2, 5-8]. He filed a grievance relative to this confinement on May 18, 2004. [Exhibit 1].

Mr. Cunningham testified that on May 4, 2004 he went to the program committee director, to bring to his attention that claimant had the status of “medical idle.” [1] This status, he explained, meant that he was not required to “do programs.” The director then “superceded” this designation, and placed claimant in “limited idle status,” which removed him from “medical idle” status, and then had claimant sign a “program refusal form.” When claimant then went back to his cell, he “found out that [he] was keeplocked.” Claimant tried to explain to the officers on the block that he should not be keeplocked, but rather his status as “limited idle” meant that he had refused a program - not that there was a disciplinary “ticket issued” - and that he should be allowed to go to all three meals per day, to mandatory call-outs, to the commissary, and to the recreation yard for one (1) hour in the afternoon. Block officers then used abusive and profane language, he alleged, in violation of facility regulations, and refused to release him.

On cross-examination claimant agreed that on May 4, 2004 he refused program participation and was placed on “limited idle” status as he described it. Mr. Cunningham said he was not familiar with the term “limited privilege” status used by the assistant attorney general, repeating again that he knew the status as “limited idle.” This “limited privilege” status is described in a policy and procedure memorandum from Green Haven. [Exhibit A]. Mr. Cunningham confirmed that when in the status he had, regular showers are taken on the company, that there are no call-outs except for medical reasons, and access to the law library is limited to the same time frames as keeplock inmates. He agreed that he was allowed one (1) hour recreation time, but would not acknowledge that this was the same privilege afforded those in keeplock, saying “they go in the morning, I went in the afternoon.”

The policy concerning limited privilege status also provides that the restrictions on commissary privileges are the same as for those in keeplock. [Exhibit A]. After describing instances where he received greater freedoms than those provided for in the policy concerning the limited privilege status [see Exhibit A], such as being allowed to proceed to medical call-outs and to his counselor unescorted, going to three meals in the mess hall rather than eating in his cell, and showers on the company, Mr. Cunningham would not agree that he was indeed given greater freedom than his status afforded, instead dwelling on the terminology of “keeplock” used by the block officers to categorize the inmates.

After reviewing the policy and procedure memorandum [see Exhibit A] concerning limited privilege inmates, he acknowledged that the treatment was essentially the same as that afforded keeplock inmates. He repeated: “My complaint is that I was told I was confined on keeplock status. A sergeant came along to explain the difference between the statuses to the housing officers.” Claimant was insistent that this “red tagging” him as keeplocked caused him harm.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

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 Cl 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 (1975).

From the limited facts presented it would appear that the facility acted within the bounds of New York State Department of Correctional Services rules and regulations, in placing claimant in the housing facility he was placed in, and in limiting his privileges as described. Indeed, it appears that claimant was afforded greater freedom than the regulations required for a limited privilege inmate. The gravamen of Mr. Cunningham’s complaint appears to be terminology alone: he did not like being linked with inmates who had received disciplinary violations. This does not, however, establish a cause of action for wrongful confinement. His housing placement within the prison facility is privileged.

Accordingly, and after carefully considering the evidence presented, including the testimony of Claimant and observing his demeanor as he did so, the Court finds claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case, and Claim number 109581 is in all respects dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

August 16, 2007
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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