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
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.