New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HENDERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-510, Claim No. 109123


Pro se inmate was awarded $500 for abrasion which occurred when his leg entered a coal door in the bed of a dump truck he was instructed to unload.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
James Henderson, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
January 13, 2009
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


The claim alleges that claimant injured his right leg while unloading a dump truck containing recyclable materials at Washington Correctional Facility on December 14, 2002. The trial of this matter was held on November 6, 2008.

Claimant testified that on December 14, 2002 he was assigned to a recycling program as part of a work detail supervised by Correction Officer Richard Purdy. The claimant and another inmate were working at the facility loading dock when a dump truck containing recycling material arrived. The truck backed up to the loading dock and the claimant climbed up the side of the vehicle and stepped into the bed. As he began unloading recyclables claimant's right leg slipped though a "coal door " in the center of the truck's tailgate. Claimant alleged that he suffered a bruised kneecap and right thigh and that he sustained damage to his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament as a result of the incident.

Defendant's Exhibit A, containing an accident report which includes a medical description of the injuries sustained by the claimant, was received as Exhibit A.

Claimant testified on cross-examination that he was not able to observe the coal door at the time he entered the bed of the truck and began unloading material. Claimant testified that he had been unloading trucks as part of his assigned work detail for approximately one year prior to December 14, 2002. He stated that he received no treatment for his injuries other than that described in Exhibit A.

The defendant called Correction Officer Richard Purdy to the stand. Correction Officer Purdy testified that on December 14, 2002 he was supervising an inmate work crew unloading recyclable materials from dump trucks at the Washington Correctional Facility loading dock. He stated that the dump trucks in use at the facility in 2002 were equipped with a coal door in the center of the back gate which was used to dump gravel or coal in a controlled manner. The coal door was not used in unloading recyclables.

Correction Officer Purdy did not witness claimant's accident. He testified that he was standing on the loading dock when he turned and observed claimant's leg extending into and through the coal door on the back gate of the truck he was unloading. Officer Purdy did not observe whether the coal door was open or closed prior to the accident and noted that the claimant entered the bed of the truck and began unloading recyclables approximately one minute prior to his injury. Claimant complained of injuries to his leg and was escorted to the facility infirmary.

The scope of the State's duty with regard to inmates involved in work programs was succinctly stated by the Appellate Division, Third Department, in Bernard v State of New York, 34 AD3d 1065, 1067 [2006]:
"Defendant through its correctional authorities, owes inmates in a work program a duty to provide safe equipment and proper warnings and instructions regarding the use of such equipment (see Manganaro v State of New York, 24 AD3d 1003, 1004 [2005]; Muhammad v State of New York, 15 AD3d 807, 808 [2005]; Maldonado v State of New York, 255 AD2d, 630, 631 [1998]; Martinez v State of New York, 225 AD2d 877, 878 [1996]; Kandrach v State of New York, 188 AD2d 910, 913 [1992]. However, defendant ‛is not an insurer of inmate safety, and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the happening of an incident' (Muhammad v State of New York, supra at 808 [internal quotation marks and citations omitted), and there will be no liability where the safety measures taken ‛were reasonable and adequate under the circumstances' (Maldonado v State of New York, supra at 631)."

Claimant was injured when his leg entered a coal door of the dump truck he was instructed to unload. He entered the bed of the dump truck from the side and was not aware that the coal door was open. The coal door is used to dump gravel and other materials and was not employed in the unloading of recyclable materials in which the claimant was engaged at the time of his injuries. Given these facts, the Court finds the defendant was negligent in allowing the coal door to be in an open position while the claimant was unloading recyclables from the bed of the dump truck. There is no proof of culpable conduct on the part of the claimant.

Exhibit A reflects that the claimant suffered a 1½ inch x 1½ inch abrasion on his right thigh and a quarter size area of swelling on his right knee as a result of the incident on December 14, 2002. He was provided an ice bag and prescribed 600 mg Motrin. Claimant refused a cane or crutches.

Claimant is awarded $500.00 as compensation for his injuries and may also recover any filing fee paid to the Clerk pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

January 13, 2009
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims