Claimant, an inmate appearing pro se, asserts a cause of action of
medical malpractice allegedly occurring on October 23, 2001, at Upstate
University Hospital in Syracuse. At the time, claimant was an inmate
incarcerated at Mid-State Correctional Facility, and had been transferred on
that date to Upstate University Hospital for a surgical procedure.
The trial of this claim was held on October 2, 2008 at Marcy Correctional
Facility. Claimant was the only witness to testify at this trial.
At the trial, the Court accepted the allegations set forth in the claim as
claimant’s testimony. As alleged therein, claimant contends that he was
discharged, over his objections, from Upstate University Hospital following his
surgical procedure without first being examined by a cardiologist or an ear,
nose and throat specialist. At trial, claimant offered into evidence copies of
his medical records, among other papers, which were collectively received as
At trial, claimant provided testimony to supplement his claim, stating that his
medical records establish that his
had been ordered, but
were not taken when he was examined on October 9, 2001 at Mid-State Correctional
Facility, prior to his admission to University Hospital.
Claimant did not call any other witnesses, nor did he offer any expert medical
testimony, but rather advised the Court that he had elected to proceed on a
theory of res ipsa loquitur.
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 order to rely upon the theory of res ipsa loquitur, a claimant must
establish that (1) the event does not usually occur in the absence of
negligence, (2) the instrumentality that caused the event was within the
exclusive control of the defendant, and (3) claimant did not contribute to the
cause of the accident (States v Lourdes Hosp., 100 NY2d 208;
Dermatossian v New York City Tr. Auth., 67 NY2d 219). The doctrine, if
established, gives rise to a permissible inference of negligence.
In medical malpractice actions, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur
“is generally available to establish a prima facie case when an
unexplained injury in an area which is remote from the treatment site occurs
while the patient is anaesthetized . . . (citations omitted).”
(Rosales-Rosario v Brookdale Univ. Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 1 AD3d 496,
497). In this case, however, claimant has not established any proximate
connection between the alleged failure to take his vital signs during his pre-op
physical examination on October 9, 2001, to any alleged complications occurring
during the surgical procedure conducted at Upstate University Hospital on
October 23, 2001.
Having found that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is inapplicable to
this claim, the Court is left with the testimony of claimant, together with his
records which were received into evidence (Exhibit 1), in support of his claim
of medical malpractice. There was no medical evidence presented, however,
either from a treating physician or from an expert witness whose opinion was
based upon claimant’s medical records, to support his allegations of
Claimant had the burden of establishing, by competent medical testimony, that
the treatment received by him constituted a deviation from the applicable
standard of care (Hale v State of New York, supra). In the
absence of any such competent medical proof that there was a deviation from
accepted medical standards, claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case,
and this claim must therefore be dismissed. Any motions not heretofore ruled
upon are hereby denied.
The Clerk of the Court is therefore directed to enter judgment in accordance
with this decision.