Claimant Samuel E. Long filed claim number 112531 on July 12, 2006, alleging
that the State of New York was negligent in failing to repair a broken stool in
his cell. On December 2, 2004, the stool allegedly gave way underneath Mr.
Long, causing him to fall to the floor and sustain injuries. I conducted a
trial of this matter on June 20, 2008 at Auburn Correctional Facility
Claimant testified that he moved into his cell a little more than a month
before the accident. On the day that he moved in, he was asked to inspect his
cell and identify anything that was not in good working order. Claimant alleges
that he noticed that the bar attaching the stool to the wall and suspending it
in the air was bent. He reported this to the correction officer in the housing
unit and was led to believe that it would soon be repaired.
Despite knowing that the chair had not yet been fixed, on December 2, 2004,
while sitting on the chair, the bent arm broke completely and Claimant fell to
the floor. According to Claimant, he injured his back in the fall. His
ambulatory health record (Exhibit 1) does indicate that he fell from his chair
and reported back pain relative to that accident. Those documents also show
that he was treated conservatively with ibuprofen, a back brace and an analgesic
balm. He was also given a series of back stretches to perform, which he
admittedly did not do.
Defendant did not call any witnesses in defense of the action but pointed out
that the ambulatory health record indicated that Claimant’s injuries were
It is well established that "[t]he State -- just as any other party . . . is
responsible, in the operation and management of its schools, hospitals and other
institutions, only for hazards reasonably to be foreseen, only for risks
reasonably to be perceived" (Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342,
346), and with respect to the safety of persons on its property, the duty of the
State is one of reasonable care under the circumstances (see Miller v
State of New York, 62 NY2d 506). However, the State 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, 851; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d
In order to establish liability in a premises liability case, Claimant must
demonstrate, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that a dangerous
condition existed; that the State either created this dangerous condition, or
had actual or constructive notice of the condition and failed to correct the
problem within a reasonable time; and that this dangerous condition was a
proximate cause of the accident (Dapp v Larson, 240 AD2d 918).
Upon the record before me, I find that Claimant was credible. Claimant has
established that the stool provided for him in his cell was damaged when he
moved in. The Claimant himself gave the State actual notice of this dangerous
condition when he reported the damaged chair to the correction officer on his
housing unit. Defendant failed to take appropriate and timely steps to remedy
this dangerous condition. I find, therefore, that Defendant is liable for the
damages Claimant sustained as a result of his fall in his cell on December 2,
However, Claimant is not without fault in this incident. Claimant was bound to
see that, which by the proper use of his senses, he should have seen
(Tarricone v State of New York, 175 AD2d 308, lv denied 78 NY2d
862). Claimant also had actual notice of this dangerous condition as
established by, among other things, his own testimony. Claimant continued to
use the stool despite knowing that it was damaged. When an inmate fails to use
ordinary care and pursues a dangerous course of conduct, he must take
responsibility for his own negligence (see Carter v State of New
York, 194 AD2d 967). For this reason, I find that Claimant is equally
culpable for the fall and resulting injuries.
Based upon the foregoing, I find that liability for this accident should be
apportioned 50% to the State and 50% to Claimant for any injuries suffered by
Claimant as a result of this accident.
With regard to damages, however, Claimant has failed to offer any proof that he
suffered any injury more severe than a strained back. There is no objective
evidence of any sort that Claimant was seriously injured in his fall. The only
evidence before the Court is Claimant’s subjective complaints of pain. I
find that Claimant has been damaged in the amount of $500.00. Therefore,
Claimant is hereby awarded the sum of $250.00, representing the
Defendant’s 50% portion of these damages.
Any and all other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or
which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
It is ordered that, to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it is
recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.