New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HALL v. COMMISSIONER GLEN GOORD, NEW YORK STATE DEPT. OF CORR. SERV., #2007-037-020, Claim No. 112347, Motion Nos. M-72883, M-72981


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-72883, M-72981
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
William Hall, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
New York State Attorney General
By: Paul Volcy, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
April 20, 2007

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The following were read and considered with respect to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment and Claimant’s motion to amend the caption of the claim:
1. Defendant’s notice of motion for summary judgment (M-72883) and supporting

affirmation of Assistant Attorney General Paul Volcy dated January 24, 2007, with annexed Exhibits A-H;

2. Claimant’s notice of motion to amend the caption (M-72981)[1] and supporting

affidavit of pro se Claimant William Hall sworn to February 9, 2007;

3. Claimant’s “surreply” in opposition to Defendant’s motion sworn to February 9,


4. Letter from Assistant Attorney General Paul Volcy dated February 23, 2007, indicating that the Defendant has no objection to Claimant’s motion to amend the caption.

Filed papers: Claim filed May 16, 2006; Answer filed July 5, 2006.

Pro se Claimant, William Hall, alleges that the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) negligently left him in his cell at Lakeview Correctional Facility (Lakeview) on April 15 or April 16, 2006, for an extended period of time while the toilet in his cell emitted foul smelling water and feces, and forced him to eat his meals in his cell under these circumstances. Defendant moves for summary judgment alleging that the claim fails to state a cause of action.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy which should only be granted where there are no issues of fact and the claim may be decided as a matter of law (Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395 [1957]). The proponent of a summary judgment motion must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, eliminating any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851 [1985]). The Court’s function is to determine if an issue of fact exists after reviewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party (Rotuba Extruders v Ceppos, 46 NY2d 223 [1978]). Summary judgment is generally unavailable where questions of credibility are concerned, as credibility issues must be resolved at trial by the trier of fact (Butzer v Scharf, 263 AD2d 862 [1999]).

Defendant argues that living conditions and the quality of life within New York State prisons are generally issues over which the Court does not have jurisdiction. In support, Defendant cites Bryant v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 28, 2003, Minarik, J., Claim No. 101757, UID # 2003-031-512, in which an inmate brought a claim alleging that he was injured due to inadequate lighting in his cell.[2] In Bryant, however, the claim was dismissed after trial and after the Court had concluded that the Claimant had failed to demonstrate that Defendant negligently failed to repair the cell light in a timely manner, after the Court concluded that Claimant had not been denied adequate light, and after the Court concluded that any inconvenience to the Claimant was de minimus.

Defendant also relies on Andujar v State of New York, Ct Cl, November 30, 2000, Sise, J., Claim No. 99397, UID # 2000-028-0015, in which the Claimant alleged that the light fixture in his cell was inoperable, that windows were missing, and that the toilet was not functioning properly. The claim in Anjudar was dismissed, but again not until after trial, and not until after the Court had concluded that the documentary evidence established that reasonable and prompt attention was given to any defects in Claimant’s cell. In dismissing the Claim, the Court in Andujar noted that the State has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect against foreseeable hazards (citing Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 241 [1976]), and that the Claimant must prove that the State had notice of the condition and failed to correct the situation within a reasonable period of time (see Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, 67 NY2d 836 [1986]; Goldblatt v State of New York, 72 AD2d 886 [1979]; Rinaldi v State of New York, 49 AD2d 361 [1975]).

Attached to Defendant’s motion papers as Exhibit H are copies of Claimant’s grievance which indicates an incident date of April 17, 2006, as opposed to April 15 or April 16, 2006 as in the claim, and a copy of a memo from Correction Officer (C. O.) J. Nelson indicating that a plumber was escorted around the unit to fix sinks and unplug three toilets on April 17, 2006, and that there were no toilets where the water was overflowing. As Claimant correctly notes, the memo initially indicated that the plumber arrived on April 24, 2006. This date was written over to indicate April 17, 2006, but there are no initials to indicate that the author of the memo, C.O. Nelson, was the one who changed the date. Moreover, the grievance and the memo, when read together, merely illustrate that there are numerous questions of fact as to when the toilet overflowed, if the toilet overflowed, when DOCS received notice of the situation, when the plumber arrived, and the length of time Claimant was left in the cell. The differing accounts of the facts create credibility issues which preclude the granting of summary judgment (see Rosenbaum v Camps Rov Tov, 285 AD2d 894 [2001]; Butzer v Scharf, supra).

Defendant correctly argues, however, that the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction to hear claims against the Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services as the limited jurisdiction of this Court does not extend to claims against individuals, even when the individuals are employees of the State of New York (see Court of Claims Act §§ 8, 9; Smith v State of New York, 72 AD2d 937 [1979]). Claimant moves to amend the caption to substitute the State of New York as the only proper Defendant, and Defendant’s counsel has indicated that the State has no objection to such an amendment. Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED, that Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (M-72883) is denied; and it is further

ORDERED, that Claimant’s motion to amend the caption (M-72981) is granted and the caption is so amended to reflect the State of New York as the sole Defendant.

April 20, 2007
Buffalo, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. While Claimant’s motion has been designated as a separate motion, it is more appropriately a cross-motion.
[2]. This and other unreported Court of Claims decisions may be found on the Court’s website at