Claimant, while an inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this claim alleging that he was wrongfully confined in keeplock at Elmira
Correctional Facility (Elmira) for nine days after the expiration of his
disciplinary sentence. Defendant State of New York (defendant) answered and
asserted several affirmative defenses. Claimant moves for summary
Defendant opposes the
motion. Claimant was issued a misbehavior report on October 17, 2007. A Tier
III disciplinary hearing was held on October 22, 2007 and claimant was found
guilty of several violations. Claimant was sentenced to 120 days in a Special
Housing Unit (SHU), with 30 days suspended. Based upon the Hearing Disposition,
the sentence began on October 17, 2007 and claimant’s release date was
scheduled to be January 15, 2008.
was apparently released from SHU on January 15, 2008, but was immediately placed
in keeplock status in the I-Block at Elmira. On January 24, 2008, claimant was
released from keeplock.
Thereafter, claimant filed a grievance. The Inmate Grievance Review Committee
(IGRC) concluded that due to a “mix-up,” claimant was placed in
keeplock for an extra nine days. IGRC agreed that an error had been made, but
stated that it had no ability to reprimand or counsel staff as claimant had
requested in his grievance. On appeal, the Superintendent indicated that
although a mistake had been made, “no malice was intended.” The
Central Office Review Committee noted that an inadvertent error was made, and
that upon notice of the mistake, staff took the appropriate action.
Claimant, as the movant on this motion for summary judgment, is required to set
forth evidentiary facts in admissible form which establish a prima facie showing
of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med.
Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 853 ; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d
557, 562 ). Once this burden has been met, it is incumbent upon the
opposing party to produce admissible evidence sufficient to create material
issues of fact requiring a trial of the action (Alvarez v Prospect Hosp.,
68 NY2d 320, 324 ). However, absent such a prima facie showing by the
movant, the motion must be denied, regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing
papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., supra).
In order to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement – a
“species” of the tort of false imprisonment (Gittens v State of
New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 407 ) – a claimant must show that
“(1) the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the [claimant] was
conscious of the confinement, (3) the [claimant] did not consent to the
confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged”
(Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 , cert denied
sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 ).
It is well-settled that defendant is entitled to absolute immunity from claims
for monetary damages relating to disciplinary hearings so long as it complies
with the rules and regulations that govern such hearings (Arteaga v State of
New York, 72 NY2d 212 ). However, that immunity may be lost if
defendant violated its own rules and regulations in conducting the hearing, or
otherwise acted outside the sphere of privileged actions (id.).
In this action, claimant is not challenging defendant’s imposition of a
disciplinary sentence against him. Rather, claimant alleges that
notwithstanding the expiration of that disciplinary sentence, he was subjected
to further restricted confinement for an additional nine days.
It is undisputed that claimant was held in keeplock without authorization for
nine days from January 15, 2008, when he was released from SHU, through January
24, 2008, when he was released from keeplock. During the investigation
conducted as part of claimant’s grievance, Correction Sergeant Harold
Hatch stated that he “[had] no explanation for how [it] happened other
than . . . there was a mix up of some sort.”
It is clear that defendant intended to and did confine claimant without his
consent, that claimant was conscious of said confinement, and that the
confinement was not privileged (Broughton v State of New York, supra).
Because claimant’s wrongful confinement resulted from a ministerial error
– that is defendant placing claimant in keeplock without any explanation
– rather than a discretionary decision, defendant is not entitled to
immunity (see e.g. Arteaga v State of New York, supra; Tango v
Tulevech, 61 NY2d 34 ; Perez v State of New York, Ct Cl, Feb.
14, 2001, Sise, J., Claim No. 99839 [UID # 2001-028-0005]). Having established
all the elements of a cause of action for wrongful confinement, claimant has
demonstrated his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
The burden then shifts to defendant to submit evidence in admissible form to
create a material issue of fact or question of credibility which would require a
trial of this claim. Defendant has provided an affidavit of Sergeant Hatch in
opposition to this motion. Sergeant Hatch states that claimant never informed
him that he (claimant) was improperly held in keeplock, and that if Hatch had
been alerted to that fact, he would have investigated the matter and promptly
released claimant. Defendant therefore argues that claimant failed to mitigate
his damages by informing staff that he was wrongfully held in keeplock. This
contention is completely without merit. An inmate has no obligation to inform
the prison staff that he should not be held in restrictive confinement.
Defendant has failed to raise any material issue of fact or create any question
of credibility. Accordingly, defendant is liable for claimant’s wrongful
confinement for nine days. However, claimant has not provided any evidence from
which the Court could ascertain the amount of damages, if any, that he suffered.
The issue of damages must therefore await resolution at trial (see Green v
State of New York, Ct Cl, Oct. 31, 2007, Collins, J., Claim No. 113099,
Motion No. M-73701 [UID # 2007-015-241]; see also Jackson v State of New
York, Ct Cl, May 28, 2008, DeBow, J., Claim No. 114376, Motion No. M-74354
[UID # 2008-038-597]).
Claimant’s motion for summary judgment is granted solely on the issue of
liability. A trial on the issue of damages will be scheduled in due