New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ACOSTA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-009-194, Claim No. 108175


Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, alleged that the State failed to provide him with timely medical treatment and failed to properly diagnose his medical condition. The claim was dismissed after trial, with the Court finding that claimant failed to present any competent medical proof to support his claim that there was a deviation from accepted medical standards.

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:
Attorney General
BY: Thomas M. Trace, Esq.,
Senior AttorneyOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 2, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, alleges in this claim that the medical staff employed by the Department of Correctional Services at Mid-State Correctional Facility failed to provide him with timely medical treatment and failed to properly diagnose his medical condition in March, 2003, ultimately resulting in emergency gallbladder surgery.

The trial of this claim was held on October 2, 2008 at Marcy Correctional Facility. At the trial, the Court accepted the allegations set forth in the claim as claimant’s testimony. As set forth in the claim, claimant, while incarcerated at Mid-State Correctional Facility, first sought medical attention on March 25, 2003, with complaints of pain in his lower right abdomen, and because he was “spewing a ‘black liquid’ ”. Claimant alleges that over the next two days, he continued to complain of this abdominal pain, but did not receive any treatment. Thereafter, on March 29, 2003, claimant suffered intense pain while in his dormitory unit, at which point he was taken first to the facility infirmary, and subsequently transferred to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica later that day. After examination, claimant was diagnosed with 21 gallstones. He underwent emergency surgery on March 29, 2003 at the Medical Center, during which 18 of the 21 gallstones were removed. As set forth in his claim, however, during the surgery claimant’s gallbladder ruptured, and it had to be removed.

Claimant contends that due to the delay in providing him with proper medical attention from March 25, 2003 through March 28, 2003, claimant was required to undergo this emergency surgery in which his gallbladder had to be removed.

No other witnesses testified at this trial.

It is well settled that the State owes a duty to those inmates in its institutions to provide them with medical care and treatment (Gordon v City of New York, 120 AD2d 562, affd 70 NY2d 839). This care must be reasonable and adequate, as an inmate must rely upon the prison authorities to treat and diagnose his medical needs (Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, lv denied 76 NY2d 701). Claimant, however, bears the burden of establishing that the care and treatment afforded him by staff at the State facility constituted a deviation from the applicable standard of care (Hale v State of New York, 53 AD2d 1025, lv denied 40 NY2d 804).

In this case, the Court has before it only the testimony of claimant in support of his claim of medical malpractice. There was no medical evidence presented, either from a treating physician or from an expert witness whose opinion was based upon claimant’s medical records, to support his allegations of medical malpractice. In situations where it is alleged that an inmate was deprived of appropriate and timely medical attention and treatment, such a claim must be supported by expert medical testimony, and this rule applies to pro se claimants (Duffen v State of New York, 245 AD2d 653, lv denied 91 NY2d 810).

In this claim, claimant had the burden of establishing that the delay in diagnosis and treatment was the proximate cause of his damages. Aside from his testimony, claimant did not present any competent medical proof that the delay in treatment caused or contributed to his injury and removal of his gallbladder.

In the absence of any competent medical proof that there was a deviation from accepted medical standards, claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case, and his claim must therefore be dismissed.

The Clerk of the Court is therefore directed to enter judgment in accordance with this decision.

December 2, 2008
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims