New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

DAVIS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-032-128, Claim No. 114692, Motion No. M-75227


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2008-032-128
Claimant(s):
SAMUEL DAVIS
Claimant short name:
DAVIS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
114692
Motion number(s):
M-75227
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant’s attorney:
Samuel Davis, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Roberto Barbosa, Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 16, 2008
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, filed this claim seeking recovery from the State of New York (defendant) for assault and battery by correction officers at Southport Correctional Facility in October 2007. Claimant served defendant with a “Request for Production of Documents” (hereinafter, “request”) on May 28, 2008. Defendant responded with “Defendant’s Reply to Claimant’s Request for Production of Documents” (hereinafter “reply”), filed with the Clerk of the Court on July 3, 2008. In said reply, defendant objected to the majority of claimant’s demands. Claimant now moves to compel defendant to comply with the same. Although claimant has failed to file his Request with the Clerk of the Court, as required by the Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims (22 NYCRR 206.5[c]), he has reiterated each demand within his motion to compel. Accordingly, the Court will assess whether defendant’s responses were appropriate.

Claimant’s first demand requests any and all grievances filed (including complaints) or other documents received by defendant concerning abuse/mistreatment of inmates by defendant, and all memoranda, investigative files or other documents created in response to such documents since October 2, 2007. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. The Court agrees that this request is overly broad and that it seeks documents which are not relevant to the issue herein (see Slate v State of New York, 267 AD2d 839 [3d Dept 1999]; see also MacKinnon v MacKinnon, 245 AD2d 690 [3d Dept 1997]). Claimant’s own grievances are presumably in his possession, and the grievances, if any, filed by other inmates are not relevant to claimant’s cause of action. It is well settled that it is improper to prove a person did an act on a particular occasion by showing that he did a similar act on a different, unrelated occasion (see Matter of Brandon, 55 NY2d 206, 210-211 [1982]; see also Coopersmith v Gold, 89 NY2d 957, 959 [1997]). Moreover, the Court of Appeals has held that inmate grievances against State correction officers and the administrative decisions relating thereto constitute “personnel records” under Civil Rights Law § 50-a(1), and thus may not be disclosed without either written consent or court order (see Matter of Prisoners’ Legal Servs. of N.Y. v New York State Dept. of Correctional Servs., 73 NY2d 26 [1988]; see also Argentieri v Goord, 25 AD3d 830 [3d Dept 2006]). Civil Rights Law §50-a(2) states that prior to issuing such a court order, the judge must review all such requests and give interested parties an opportunity to be heard. It further states that no order shall issue without “a clear showing of facts sufficient to warrant the judge to request records for review” (Civil Rights Law §50-a[2]). The party seeking the records must demonstrate that it is reasonably likely that the requested documentation contains relevant material and that “the quest for its contents is not merely a desperate grasping at a straw” (see People v Gissendanner, 48 NY2d 543, 550 [1979]). Claimant has failed to meet this burden. Specifically, he has failed to put forth, in good faith, a factual predicate for the conclusion that the requested documentation contains information material and relevant to his claim for assault and battery. Claimant’s motion to compel, with respect to this demand, is therefore denied.

The second demand requests all of claimant’s sick call request sheets from October 2, 2007, until the date of defendant’s response. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. CPLR 3101 (a) provides that “[t]here shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof.” As the claim is for assault and battery, not medical malpractice or medical negligence, the Court finds that the sick call request sheets are not material and necessary to the prosecution of claimant’s action. Moreover, because the request could implicate hundreds of sick call request sheets for hundreds of inmates, it is clearly overly broad and unduly burdensome. Accordingly, claimant’s demand for said sick call request sheets is denied.

The third demand requests claimant’s complete medical records from October 2, 2007 to the date of defendant’s response. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. Defendant argues, in its Affirmation in Opposition to this motion, that since claimant has not alleged medical negligence or malpractice, or improper medical treatment, the requested records are therefore not relevant. The Court finds that claimant’s medical records may be relevant to his claim of assault and battery and the injuries he alleges to have sustained as a result. Moreover, claimant has the right to inspect his own medical records (see 7 NYCRR 5.24[a]) and may request a copy of any portion of his record to which he is entitled, upon payment of a reasonable fee (see 7 NYCRR 5.36). Claimant’s motion to compel with respect to this demand is therefore granted. The State should promptly advise claimant as to the cost of photocopying claimant’s medical records. Claimant shall then forward proper payment for such photocopying to the Assistant Attorney General, who shall, within fourteen days of receipt of said payment, provide claimant with a copy of the requested records.

The fourth demand requests any and all logs/lists or other documentation reflecting grievances filed by Southport inmates from October 2, 2007 to the date of defendant’s response. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. The Court agrees that the request is overly broad, particularly with respect to its inclusion of the phrase “any and all” (see MacKinnon v MacKinnon, 245 AD2d 690 [1997], supra). In addition, as set forth herein above, claimant’s grievances are presumably in his possession and to the extent he seeks information regarding other inmates, it is not relevant or proper (see Matter of Brandon, 55 NY2d 206, 210-211 [1982], supra). Accordingly, claimant’s motion to compel with respect to this demand is denied.

The fifth demand requests any and all documents created by any Southport staff member in response to grievances filed by claimant from October 2, 2007 to the date of defendant’s response concerning his mistreatment of medical care including conflicts with Southport Security staff members. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. Defendant further alleges, in opposition to this motion, that because claimant has not alleged medical negligence or malpractice, or improper medical treatment, the requested information is not relevant. This Court agrees. As set forth above, CPLR 3101 (a) provides that there shall be full disclosure of all matter “material and necessary” in the prosecution or defense of an action. As the claim is for assault and battery, not medical malpractice or medical negligence, the Court finds that the requested information is not material and necessary to the prosecution of claimant’s action. Accordingly, claimant’s motion to compel the same is denied.

The sixth demand requests a copy of the Inspector General’s reports and findings, including the F.B.I., based on claimant’s complaints of October 18, 2008 (sic 2007) and

October 22, 2007. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. However, in its Affirmation in Opposition to this motion, defendant responded that it does not have copies of any report from the F.B.I. regarding the alleged incident and indicated that it would, upon receipt of the Inspector General’s reports, redact the reports, if appropriate, and provide them to claimant at a cost of $0.25 per page. Reports developed by the Inspector General’s Office during the course of an investigation against correction officers are generally protected from disclosure, pursuant to the public interest privilege, and the Court must weigh the State’s interest in maintaining the integrity of its internal investigations against the claimant’s interest in seeking access to the file (see Lowrance v State of New York, 185 AD2d 268 [2d Dept 1992]). Accordingly, defendant is hereby directed to provide the Court with two copies of each report prepared by the Inspector General’s Office with respect to the subject claim. One copy shall be unredacted and the other shall be redacted in the manner that the defendant believes would both present the information relevant to the claim and, at the same time, protect any security interests or confidential information. After reviewing the information, the Court will issue further directions indicating what, if any, portion of the documents in question should be provided to claimant. The Court finds defendant’s request for payment of the Inspector General’s reports at a cost of $0.25 per page to be appropriate. The State is not liable for expenses relating to litigation and is entitled to require pre-payment of the reasonable cost of photocopying (Civil Rights Law §79[3] and §79-a[3]; see Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530 [3d Dept 1991]; see also Shell v State of New York, 307 AD2d 761 [4th Dept 2003]). Defendant shall notify claimant of the cost for photocopying the reports of the Inspector General’s office and shall provide claimant with the requested copies within fourteen days of receiving claimant’s payment.

The seventh demand requests any and all lawsuits filed by Southport inmates complaining of mistreatment and misconduct and excessive use of force. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. This Court agrees. The use of the phrase “any and all” in this request is overly broad and unduly burdensome (see Mackinnon v Mackinnon, 245 AD2d 690 [1997], supra). Moreover, as set forth above, it is generally not proper to prove that a person did an act on a particular occasion simply by showing that he did a similar act on a different, unrelated occasion (see Matter of Brandon, 55 NY2d 206, 210-211 [1982], supra). Exceptions to this rule exist in instances where such information may be relevant to show motive, intent, absence of mistake or accident, a common scheme or plan, or identity (see id.; see also People v Molineux, 168 NY 264 [1901]); People v Ventimiglia, 52 NY2d 350, 359 [1981]). However, claimant has failed to set forth any facts sufficient to warrant the application of any such exception. Accordingly, claimant’s request is denied.

The eighth demand requests the names of all inmates, medical staff, and security staff present in the hospital on October 22, 2007 at 9:25 A.M. Defendant objected to said demand on the basis that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vague and ambiguous, and seeks documents that are neither relevant to the subject matter involved in this litigation nor reasonably calculated to lead to discovery of admissible evidence. This Court finds that the requested information, to the extent it seeks the names of the individuals involved in or witness to the alleged incident, is material and necessary to the claim. Defendant has already provided in its Affirmation in Opposition, the names of several correction officers who were involved in the incident on October 22, 2007. Accordingly, defendant shall, within thirty days of the date this Decision and Order is filed, provide claimant with the names of any other correction officers, inmates, medical staff and security staff involved in or witness to the subject incident.

Defendant’s reply to claimant’s Request for Production of Documents and claimant’s brief acknowledge that defendant has provided some documents in response to claimant’s ninth request. However, as the Court has not been provided with claimant’s actual demand, it cannot assess whether defendant’s response was sufficient. Accordingly, the same will not be addressed herein.

The tenth and twelfth demands request the production of Directive No. 2111 (Employee Misconduct) and Directive No. 2260 (Ethics - New York State). Defendant objects to these demands on the basis that the requested directives are not intended to be distributed to inmates or inmate libraries. In its Affirmation in Opposition, defendant annexes Directive Nos. 0000 and 0001 which confirm that distribution of the requested directives are not to be made to inmate libraries. In order to determine whether the requested directives are relevant, the Court must review the same. Accordingly, the Court directs that defendant produce, for in camera inspection by the Court, the directives requested by claimant. To the extent defendant feels that information contained therein is confidential or designed to protect security interests, it shall provide two copies of each directive, one of which is unredacted and the other redacted in the manner that the State believes would both present the information relevant to the claim and, at the same time, protect any security interests or confidential information. After reviewing the information, the Court will issue further directions indicating what, if any, portion of the documents in question should be provided to claimant.

The eleventh request demands the production of the Codes of State Regulation (Manual/Policy). Defendant objects on the basis that it is unclear as to what, specifically, claimant is requesting. The Court agrees and denies claimant’s motion to compel a response to the same.

In conclusion, claimant’s motion to compel is denied in all respects, except as otherwise set forth herein.





December 16, 2008
Albany, New York

HON. JUDITH A. HARD
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered:


1. Notice of Motion to Compel Discovery dated July 3, 2008 with Affidavit of claimant in Support of Motion to Compel sworn to July 7, 2008, and Brief in Support of Motion to Compel Discovery dated July 3, 2008.

2. Affirmation of Roberto Barbosa, Esq. in Opposition to claimant’s Motion dated September 3, 2008 with Exhibits A - D.