Shawn Martinez (claimant) alleges that he fell over a hole in the floor of the
Clinton Correctional Facility (Clinton) laundry room on January 6, 2003,
suffering injuries to his right arm. He described the injuries to his arm as
“superficial scratches” and stated that the arm was “red and
swollen,” that it was treated with ice in the prison hospital on the day
of the fall and that a black and blue mark resulted the following day.
There was no dispute at trial that an approximate 3½ inch - 4 inch wide
hole in the floor of the Clinton laundry room, caused by the removal of a pipe
attached to a removed laundry machine, had existed for a period of time, that it
was open and obvious and that its existence was known to both claimant and
The only dispute was whether claimant fell or tripped over the hole in the
floor. Claimant, his only witness, alleges he did. Defendant, through witness
Donald Kramer, contradicts claimant’s allegation. Mr. Kramer, a
Department of Correctional Services employee on duty on the date and at the time
of the incident in the Clinton laundry room, having worked in that laundry room
for over 20 years, was defendant’s only witness.
Mr. Kramer, while not observing claimant’s fall, reported seeing claimant
rise from the floor in the immediate aftermath of the fall and further reported
that while rising, claimant was 10 to 15 feet from the hole in the floor. His
observation went uncontradicted and unchallenged. Mr. Kramer further testified,
without objection, that subsequent to the fall, another inmate present at the
time of claimant’s fall, reported to him that claimant fell as a result of
being slapped during a verbal confrontation with another individual.
Claimant bears the burden of proving his case by a preponderance of the
credible evidence (Zi Guang v State of New York, 263 AD2d 745, 746 [3d
Dept 1999]). In the Court of Claims, credibility assessments and resolution of
questions of fact are within the province of the Court (see Pursel v
State of New York, 226 AD2d 872, 873 [3d Dept 1996]; Weber v State of New
York, 107 AD2d 929, 931 [3d Dept 1985]).
Having had an opportunity to observe the two witnesses at trial and assess
their demeanor as they gave their testimony, the Court credits Mr.
Kramer’s testimony. The Court therefore finds, as a matter of fact, that
Mr. Martinez did not fall in the Clinton laundry room on January 6, 2003 by
reason of having tripped over the aforementioned hole in the floor.
The claimant has failed to prove his case. The claim is dismissed.
All motions not previously decided are hereby denied. Let judgement be entered