New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MORRIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2008-026-051, Claim No. 100694-A, Motion No. M-74768

Synopsis

Case information

UID: 2008-026-051
Claimant(s): BEATRICE MORRIS
Claimant short name: MORRIS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 100694-A
Motion number(s): M-74768
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney: Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
By: Joseph S. Genova, Esq., Atara Miller, Esq. and Patrick Marecki, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Lea LaFerlita, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: December 17, 2008
City: New York
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

In this claim, Beatrice Morris alleges that on April 18, 1999, while incarcerated at Bayview Correctional Facility, she was sexually assaulted by Correction Officer Gilbert Eversley. Her claim in this court contains a cause of action for State constitutional violations and also for the negligent training, supervision and retention of Eversley.

Citing the doctrine of collateral estoppel, defendant moves for an order precluding claimant from litigating the amount of compensatory damages to which she is entitled and limiting any potential recovery from the State to $1,000.

The relevant procedural history is as follows. In addition to the instant action in this court, on August 2, 2000, Ms. Morris brought a related action against various entities in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. Following motion practice, the complaint there was dismissed as to all defendants except Gilbert Eversley. On January 26, 2004, a jury trial was commenced on claimant's 42 USC 1983 claim against Eversley. A verdict was returned in claimant's favor, awarding her $500 in compensatory damages and $7,500 in punitive damages.

On February 26, 2004, Judge Denny Chin vacated that portion of the jury award as to compensatory and punitive damages on the grounds of inadequacy and granted a new trial on the issue of damages.

The second trial was commenced on April 19, 2004, and a verdict was rendered in which claimant was awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $1,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $15,000. On April 23, 2004, a judgment against Eversley in such amounts was entered, which, according to the parties, has not been satisfied.

* * *

In order for collateral estoppel to apply, two requirements must be met. First, the party seeking the benefit of the doctrine must prove that the identical issue was necessarily decided in the prior action, irrespective of whether the tribunals or causes of action were the same. Second, the party to be precluded from relitigating the issue must have had a full and fair opportunity to contest the prior determination. D'Arata v New York Central Mutual Fire Insurance Company, 76 NY2d 659, 563 NYS2d 24 (1990); Ryan v New York Telephone Company, 62 NY2d 494, 478 NYS2d 823 (1984).

Claimant does not dispute that the second requirement has been met, i.e., that she had a full and fair opportunity to contest the damages awarded her in the federal action. Moreover, citing Kidd v State of New York, Ct Cl, November 19, 2003, motion no. M-67198, UID #2003-013-030,(1) Patti, J.), claimant recognizes that she may not receive a "double recovery" for the same injuries. See 14 of the April 18, 2008 affirmation of Atara Miller (the "Miller Aff.").

The dispute here is whether there is an identity of issues in the federal action and this action vis-a-vis damages; claimant argues that there is no such identity because "the jury's determination of damages did not include consideration of the State's negligence and related damages." See 8 of the Miller Aff.

The court disagrees. It is clear that whether claimant's theory of recovery is under 42 USC 1983, the State constitution or negligence, any damages suffered by Ms. Morris are those stemming from the sexual assault itself and its sequelae. Any negligence by the State in this case relates only to how it allegedly resulted in claimant's sexual assault; there are no allegations of injuries caused by the State aside from those which flow from such assault.

As defendant points out, the damages alleged in the federal action complaint are virtually identical to those alleged in the claim in this action. Moreover, at her (second) federal trial, claimant testified in detail as to the sexual assault; Eversley's continued sexual harassment of her after the assault; his issuance of a false disciplinary report thereafter; her physical and emotional suffering because of the assault including depression, high blood pressure and flashbacks; her transfer to Taconic Correctional Facility; and her treatment by a mental health professional following the assault.

The specific injuries that claimant alleges were not presented to the jury in the federal case are as follows:

For example, Ms. Morris experienced an ongoing fear of retaliation by Eversley because of the State's failure to adequately protect her, she was humiliated and frightened by Eversley's continued harassment and sexual advances subsequent to and distinct from the assault, she suffered from aggravated anxiety when subjected to a hearing on a false disciplinary ticket, and experienced extreme and often debilitating anxiety when forced to move to Taconic Correctional Facility after reporting the assault. She suffered further emotional and psychological damages as a result of being moved to Taconic. The Amended Claim also alleges that the State's failure to investigate or to take action to remove Eversley caused her additional injury.

12 of the Miller Aff.

As to retaliation, as set forth above, at the federal trials, she testified specifically to Eversley's issuance of a false disciplinary report. She also testified to his continued sexual harassment after the assault and to her transfer to Taconic. As to the alleged failure to investigate the incident or to remove Eversley, claimant fails to explain how same would result in damages other than those to which she testified in the federal trials.

In view of the foregoing, I am constrained to find that claimant is precluded by the doctrine of collateral estoppel from the opportunity to demonstrate additional compensable damages beyond the $1,000 awarded at the second federal trial.

Accordingly, having reviewed the submissions(2) , IT IS ORDERED that motion no. M-74768 be granted.

December 17, 2008

New York, New York

Alan C. Marin

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. This and other decisions of the Court of Claims may be found on the court's website: www.nyscourtofclaims.state.ny.us.

2. The following were reviewed: defendant's notice of motion with affirmation in support and exhibits A through M; claimant's affirmation in opposition; and defendant's affirmation in reply.