New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SNYDER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-031-006, Claim No. 112182, Motion No. M-73746


Synopsis


Questions of fact exist concerning whether Defendant should have been aware of alleged defect in press brake machine and whether Defendant’s alleged failure to properly maintain the machine was causally related to Claimant’s injuries. Claimant’s motion for partial summary judgment is denied

Case Information

UID:
2008-031-006
Claimant(s):
SUSAN SNYDER
Claimant short name:
SNYDER
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
112182
Motion number(s):
M-73746
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant’s attorney:
ANNA MARIE RICHMOND, ESQ.
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
New York State Attorney General
BY: REYNOLDS E. HAHN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
February 14, 2008
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision

The following papers, numbered 1 to 8, were read on motion by Claimant for partial summary judgment:
  1. Claimant’s Notice of Motion, filed July 18, 2007;
  2. Affirmation of William J. Rold, Esq., dated July 14, 2007,with attached exhibits;
3) Claimant’s Memorandum of Law, dated July 14, 2007;
4) Affirmation of Reynolds E. Hahn, Esq., dated October 10, 2007;
5) Affidavit of Douglas E. Sahr, sworn to October 9, 2007, with attached exhibit;
  1. Defendant’s Memorandum of Law, dated October 10, 2007;
7) Claimant’s Reply Memorandum of Law, dated October 15, 2007;
  1. Affirmation of Anna Marie Richmond, Esq., dated October 15, 2007, with attached exhibit. In her underlying claim, which was filed on April 6, 2006, Claimant alleges a cause of action for personal injuries she sustained in the metal shop at Albion Correctional Facility on January 10, 2005. At the time of the accident, Claimant was operating a hydraulic press (a Wysong Press Brake machine) when the machine malfunctioned and crushed her right hand. According to Claimant, the malfunction occurred because of Defendant’s poor maintenance of the machine. She suffered cuts and fractures and alleges permanent injuries to her hand. Claimant seeks $250,000.00 for her injuries.
With this motion Claimant, seeks partial summary judgment on liability. In support of her motion Claimant points out: 1) there is no dispute that the machine malfunctioned; 2) after the accident, worn parts were discovered that allegedly caused the malfunction; and 3) Defendant has no records which demonstrate proper maintenance of the machine prior to the accident.

In response to the motion, Defendant argues that, in fact, it was not the Wysong Press-Brake that malfunctioned, but rather the safety pull back device that was fitted on the machine sometime in 1988. According to Defendant, although there were worn parts on the pull back device that caused the malfunction, these parts were completely encased and would not have been detected by visual inspection. Defendant argues that, in order to have found the alleged defect prior to the accident, it would have had to “tear apart the machinery” and that its duty to maintain the machine in reasonably safe condition did not require such measures (Hahn Aff., p. 6). Defendant asserts that it had no notice that there were any defective or worn parts in the machine prior to the accident and that, although written records were not kept, the machine was properly inspected and cared for.

In any application for summary judgment, the moving party bears a heavy burden in establishing that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact (Andre v Pomeroy, 35 NY2d 361; Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853). To make a prima facie cause of action for negligence, such as is alleged here, a Claimant must demonstrate the following: “(1) the existence of a duty on defendant’s part as to plaintiff; (2) a breach of this duty; and (3) that such breach was a substantial cause of the resulting injury” (Merino v New York City Tr. Auth., 218 AD2d 451, 457).

Although the provisions of the Labor Law do not apply in the prison context (D'Argenio v Village of Homer, 202 AD2d 883), the State, nonetheless “owes the inmate a duty to provide reasonably safe machinery and equipment with which to work and adequate warnings and instructions for the safe operation of such machinery and equipment” (see Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910 at 913; Manganaro v State of New York, 24 AD3d 1003; Callahan v State of New York, 19 AD2d 437, affd 14 NY2d 665). The State, however, is not an insurer of the safety of its premises and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an accident (see Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850, at 851; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874). Unremitting supervision is not required (Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842; Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914).

In this instance, it is conceded that Defendant did not have notice of the allegedly defective condition prior to Claimant’s accident and that the malfunction of the machine was unexpected. Claimant argues, however, that had Defendant adequately maintained the machine, as required, such defective condition would have been discovered. While Claimant has produced evidence which tends to indicate that Defendant may very well be liable for her injuries, she has failed to demonstrate such liability as a matter of law. I find that there are questions of fact concerning the adequacy of Defendant’s care and maintenance of the machine, and whether such care and maintenance should have led to the discovery of the worn and defective parts prior to the accident.

Accordingly, it is hereby

ORDERED, that Claimant’s motion for partial summary judgment is denied.

February 14, 2008
Rochester, New York

HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of Claims