New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MEJIA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-521, Claim No. 110969


Pro se inmate claim alleging medical negligence or malpractice was dismissed following trial. Absent expert testimony, claimant failed to establish prima facie case.

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:
Luis Mejia, Pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 8, 2009
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, alleges that the defendant failed to provide him adequate medical care at Washington Correctional Facility from March 17, 2004 through July 2004 and thereafter at Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility from July 2004 and continuing.[1] The claim proceeded to trial on April 30, 2009.

According to the allegations in the claim, claimant reported to the infirmary at Washington Correctional Facility on April 16, 2004 with complaints of shoulder and arm pain. He was given an appointment with Dr. Trachtman who advised him that he could find nothing wrong. At a subsequent appointment Dr. Trachtman prescribed Methocarbamol to be taken by the claimant twice daily and recommended therapy (claim, par. "3 [B]"). He later returned to the infirmary on numerous occasions with complaints of pain in his back which, he contends, were ignored (claim, par. "3[D]" and par. "3[E]"). Claimant alleges that he was transferred to Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in July of 2004 where he was "given the same treatment he was receiving at Washington" until an MRI performed on September 23, 2004 revealed cervical disc disease (see claim pars. “3[F] and [G]”). Claimant alleges that as of the date of the claim, nothing has been done to “repair the damage to his spine, or to relieve the pain that he continually suffers from” (claim par. “3[H]”). Claimant alleges that “[t]he accrual date on this matter is still pending as the Claimant is still awaiting corrective surgery” (see claim par. “4”).

Claimant testified at trial that he injured his back and was given only medication for the pain no other treatment. He testified that he was sent to Comstock Correctional Facility for X-ray examination and was advised that no problems were revealed. He still had pain, however, and underwent a course of physical therapy at Coxsackie Correctional Facility. He was then transferred to Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility where he was advised by a physician that a CT scan was unnecessary. The pain continued, however, and he was referred for an MRI examination in September 2004. The claimant testified that the MRI scan revealed that his cervical discs were out of alignment and surgery was approved on November 23, 2004. Claimant testified that although he should have been placed on medical hold, he was transferred to Arthur Kill Correctional Facility. Claimant testified that he underwent surgery on June 8, 2005.

Received in evidence were claimant's health record (Exhibit 1), Transfer Discharge Summary from Albany Medical Center (Exhibit 2) and forms reflecting the claimant's transfers between facilities from July 2004 through October 2005.

On cross-examination claimant testified that he is 75 years of age and that he was injured in April 2004. He underwent an X-ray examination in June 2004, and physical therapy from June 2004 onward. He also had an MRI examination in September 2004 and a laminectomy on June 8, 2005.

At the conclusion of the trial, defendant moved for dismissal for failure to establish a prima facie case.

Claimant's Exhibit 1 reflects that surgery was approved on November 23, 2004 and claimant's Exhibit 2 indicates that claimant underwent a "C7-T1 corpectomy, C6-T2 anterior cervical fusion" at Albany Medical Center Hospital on June 8, 2005. Review of the medical records received as defendant's Exhibit A reflect that claimant was seen by several physicians who prescribed a course of physical therapy together with anti-inflammatory and pain medications. As the pain in claimant's extremities persisted, he was referred for an MRI examination and surgical consultation. Claimant thereafter underwent surgery on June 8, 2005.

The State has the fundamental duty to provide adequate medical care to inmates in its prisons without undue delay (Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7 [1996]). However, as made clear by the Court in Myers v State of New York (46 AD3d 1030 [2007]) "[w]hether the claim is grounded in negligence or medical malpractice, 'where medical issues are not within the ordinary experience and knowledge of lay persons, expert medical testimony is a required element of a prima facie case' " (Id. at 1031; see also Trottie v State of New York, 39 AD3d 1094 [2007]; Lowe v State of New York, 35 AD3d 1281 [2006]). Here, the issue of whether or not adequate medical care was provided for the claimant's condition is not one within the ordinary experience and knowledge of lay persons. Claimant therefore failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence or medical malpractice. Accordingly, defendant's motion for dismissal is granted and the claim is dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

July 8, 2009
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. By Decision and Order dated July 24, 2007 defendant's motion to dismiss the claim as untimely was granted to the extent it alleged medical malpractice arising out of the treatment rendered at Washington Correctional Facility and was otherwise denied.