New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GREEN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-015-011, Claim No. 113634, Motion Nos. M-74188, M-74256


Synopsis


Defendant's motion for a protective order and the claimant's motion to compel discovery was granted in part and denied in part.

Case Information

UID:
2008-015-011
Claimant(s):
SHAWN GREEN
Claimant short name:
GREEN
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
113634
Motion number(s):
M-74188, M-74256
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Shawn Green, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Michael T. Krenrich, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
February 28, 2008
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Defendant moves for a protective order (M-74188) pursuant to CPLR 3103 (a) with respect to three sets of interrogatories served by the claimant, a pro se inmate, on October 19, 2007. Claimant moves for an order (M-74256) pursuant to CPLR 3104 [a], 3124 and 3126 compelling responses to the same interrogatories, imposing sanctions and appointing a referee. The claim alleges the use of excessive force by various correction officers on March 25, 2007, that the issuance of a misbehavior report on that same date was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of process, that the hearing officer conducting the subsequent disciplinary hearing was biased, the disciplinary charges were unsubstantiated and that the sanctions imposed were retaliatory. The claim also alleges that the defendant failed to provide proper medical attention for "aches and pains" following the March 25, 2007 incident. Two unrelated causes of action are set forth in a supplemental claim filed on May 24, 2007[1].

The claimant previously moved for the imposition of sanctions resulting from the defendant's delay in providing responses to four sets of interrogatories served on June 7, 2007. That motion was denied by order dated December 14, 2007. Claimant served three further sets of interrogatories upon the defendant on October 19, 2007. In its motion for a protective order, the defendant objects to many of the interrogatories as either irrelevant to the issues or duplicative of the previously served interrogatories.

CPLR 3101 provides for the disclosure of all items "material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action". The Court of Appeals has interpreted these words liberally to require the disclosure "of any facts bearing on the controversy which will assist preparation for trial by sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]). Although these discovery provisions are liberally construed, " '[u]nder our discovery statutes and case law, competing interests must always be balanced; the need for discovery must be weighed against any special burden to be borne by the opposing party' " (Kavanagh v Ogden Allied Maintenance Corp., 92 NY2d 952, 954 [1998], quoting O'Neill v Oakgrove Constr., 71 NY2d 521, 529 [1988], rearg denied 72 NY2d 910 [1988]; see also Andon v 302-304 Mott St. Assoc., 94 NY2d 740,747 [2000]).

With respect to the interrogatories directed to Correction Officer (CO) Roswell Segovis (Exhibit N), defendant objects to interrogatories numbered 3, 5, 9 and 10 as neither material nor relevant to the claim and to interrogatories numbered 2, 4, 7 and 8 as repetitious or duplicative of interrogatories previously served and answered (see Response to Interrogatories dated September 19, 2007 [Exhibit J]).

Review of the interrogatories which were directed to CO Segovis indicates that, contrary to the defendant’s assertions, interrogatories numbered 3, 5 and 9 are material and relevant to the claim. These interrogatories inquired as to injuries sustained by CO Segovis in the incident (interrogatory number 3), his height and weight (interrogatory number 5) and the standard procedures for a pat frisk (interrogatory number 9). Balancing the competing interests of the parties, the Court finds that the discovery sought in interrogatories numbered 3, 5 and 9 (Exhibit N) is material and relevant to the issues and the claimant’s need for the information requested outweighs any purported burden on the defendant in providing it. The Court agrees with the defendant that interrogatory number 10 which seeks an interpretation of certain "correction guidelines" is improper and no response is required. Review of the claimant’s interrogatories served in June of 2007 and the defendant’s responses thereto (defendant’s Exhibit J) reveals that interrogatories numbered 2, 4, 7 and 8 were previously answered and the defendant need not respond to these interrogatories. Accordingly, the defendant must respond to interrogatories numbered 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 14.[2]

With respect to the interrogatories directed to Correction Officer (CO) Nicholas Stowe (Exhibit O), defendant objects to interrogatories numbered 1, 3 and 10 as irrelevant and immaterial and to interrogatories numbered 2 and 4 as duplicative of interrogatories previously served and answered (see Response to Interrogatories dated September 19, 2007 [Exhibit K].

The Court finds that defendant’s objections to interrogatories numbered 3 and 10 are not well founded. These interrogatories involve CO Stowe’s post assignment on the date of the incident (interrogatory number 3) and possible injuries to CO Stowe which may be relevant on the issue of excessive force (interrogatory number 10). Interrogatory number 1 asking "[w]hat hand do you write with" does not appear to be relevant or material to the claim and, therefore, requires no response.

Neither interrogatory number 2, inquiring as to CO Stowe’s duties and functions on the date of the incident, nor interrogatory number 4, inquiring as to CO Stowe’s role in restraining the claimant were previously answered. A response to these interrogatories must be provided. Accordingly, the defendant need not respond to interrogatory number one, which the Court finds to be immaterial to the claim but shall otherwise provide a complete response to all interrogatories directed to CO Stowe (Exhibit O)[3].

With respect to the interrogatories included in defendant’s Exhibit P, the defendant objected to interrogatories numbered 2, 3 and 7 as irrelevant and immaterial to the matters at issue in the claim. The Court agrees that interrogatory number 2 is irrelevant and, in addition, overly broad. Interrogatory number 3, however, seeks information concerning the quantity of medications supplied to the claimant which may be relevant to the extent the claim alleges improper medical treatment following the incident. Lastly, interrogatory number 7 inquires as to the injuries sustained by each correction officer involved in the incident and is relevant to the issues presented in the claim alleging the use of excessive force. Accordingly, defendant must provide a response to interrogatories numbered 1, 3 - 8[4].

That branch of the claimant’s motion requesting sanctions is denied. Sanctions may be appropriate where a party "refuses to obey an order for disclosure or willfully fails to disclose information which the court finds ought to have been disclosed" (CPLR 3126). While the nature and degree of the sanction is a matter that rests within the court's discretion, sanctions are inappropriate absent a clear showing that the failure to comply with discovery was willful, contumacious or in bad faith (Gillen v Utica First Ins. Co., 41 AD3d 647 [2007] [absent clear showing that failure to answer interrogatories was in bad faith, denial of motion to strike the defendant's answer was a provident exercise of discretion; Negro v St. Charles Hosp. & Rehabilitation Ctr., 44 AD3d 727 [2007] [failure to disclose which was the result of disorganization and ineptitude of plaintiff's counsel did not warrant striking complaint]). Here, there is no indication that defendant’s delay in providing responses to claimant’s interrogatories was willful, contumacious or in bad faith. Consequently, sanctions at this juncture are not appropriate. Finally, there is insufficient reason to believe the assignment of a referee is necessary.

Based on the foregoing, the defendant’s motion for a protective order (M-74188) is granted in part and denied in part and the claimant’s motion to compel, for the imposition of sanctions and the assignment of a referee (M-74256) is granted in part and denied in part. Defendant is directed to serve and file responses to the claimant’s interrogatories in accordance with this decision within 30 days from the date this decision and order is filed.


February 28, 2008
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims


The Court considered the following papers:

Motion No. M-74188
  1. Notice of motion dated November 8, 2007;
  2. Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich dated November 8, 2007 with exhibits;

Motion No. M- 74256

  1. Notice of motion dated November 16, 2007;
  2. "Affirmation" of Shawn Green sworn to November 16, 2007;
  3. Memorandum of law of Shawn Green dated November 16, 2007;
  4. Affirmation of Michael T. Krenrich dated December 7, 2007 with exhibits;
  5. Reply of Shawn Green sworn to December 13, 2007.

[1]. Claimant’s motion (M-74039) to amend his claim to add a bailment cause of action was denied by decision and order dated December 14, 2007.
[2]. Defendant does not object to interrogatories numbered 1, 6, 11, 12, 13 and 14 although it does not appear responses were provided. CPLR 3133 (a) requires that interrogatories must be answered (including any objections thereto) within twenty days after service.
[3]. Defendant does not object to interrogatories numbered 5 through 9 although it does not appear responses were provided.
[4]. Defendant does not object to interrogatories numbered 1, 4 - 6 and 8 although it does not appear responses were provided.