Claimant seeks damages for a January 26, 2006 incident in which she slipped and
fell on a wet floor at Green Haven Correctional Facility. Claimant, who was at
the facility to visit her son who was an inmate, contends that the incident was
the result of negligence on the part of defendant’s employees.
Claimant testified that she and her husband went to visit their son, who was
incarcerated at Green Haven, on the date in question. They arrived at Green
Haven a few minutes after noon. She stated they went in the main entrance and
proceeded to the package desk which was straight ahead from the entrance door.
She gave her package to the officer at the desk and after five or ten minutes,
during which the officer examined the items she brought for her son, she was
directed to the locker area near the front door to store her personal items and
the few items she was not allowed to bring to her son. Claimant testified that
she saw one or two inmates in the area as she walked to the locker area and that
one had a mop in his hand. She also noticed a bucket on the floor and a
“rectangular type sign” that said “Caution” (Trial
Minutes, p 30). She stated she tried to stay as close to the reception desk as
possible because there was a runner covering the tile floor, but that in order
to get to the lockers she had to step off the runner and onto the tile floor.
In that specific area – the tile floor between the runner and the locker
area – she did not see any inmates, officers, mops or signs.
Claimant stated her husband was walking in front of her, he stepped off the
runner, she followed and, on her first step on the tile, her “foot made a
slip” and she fell to the ground (id., p 32).
On cross-examination, claimant acknowledged that she knew that visiting hours
were over at 2:30 p.m. and that she was eager to see her son, but she denied
being in a “hurry” (id., p 34). She maintained that nobody
warned her that the floor was wet.
Claimant’s husband testified that he did not see any inmates working at
the facility when he arrived with his wife and sister-in-law, Eusteen Debber.
He could not recall seeing any Caution signs nor did he see any mops in the
area. He stated that he walked down the runner towards the locker area,
followed by his wife and then his sister-in-law. As he stepped from the runner
onto the tile floor, the floor was wet and his foot slipped but he was able to
catch himself and did not fall. Immediately afterwards, he heard his wife
yelling and he turned and saw her on the floor.
Correction Officer William Leete identified himself as the ID room officer and
described his duties as taking all necessary photographs in the facility,
including photographs of incidents such as slip-and-falls. He identified a
series of seven photographs (Exhibits G through M) that he took in 2009 as
fairly and accurately representing the layout of the front gate processing area
as it existed on the date of claimant’s accident. Leete testified that he
was ordered to the area at about 12:30 p.m. on January 26, 2006 and took several
photographs in accordance with facility procedure. These photographs were not
produced at trial or in pretrial disclosure (see footnote 1).
Correction Officer Kendra Driver was assigned to the visitor processing area on
the date of claimant’s accident. She testified that the procedure was
that if a visitor had a package, they would have to proceed first to the package
area for it to be examined, and if there was any item in the package that was
not allowed in the facility, the visitor had the option of taking it back to
their personal vehicle or storing it in one of the lockers. Officer Driver
stated that Officer Morris was assigned to the package area and Officer Pratts
was assigned to the front gate frisk area. Two inmate porters were also
assigned to the area, mopping the floors. The general procedure for floor
mopping was that the inmates would “cordon off” the area they were
going to mop and put up yellow “Wet Floor” signs, mopping only half
of the floor area at a time, “and leave the other half dry so there was a
space for people to walk” (id.
, p 79). According to Driver, there
were six signs that were used in the front gate processing area.
Officer Driver recalled seeing claimant, with two other people, at the package
desk. At that time, there were two inmates mopping the area by the lockers.
She did not see claimant fall but became aware of the incident when she saw
someone waving from across the room. After a few minutes, she left her post and
went over to the locker area (Exhibit J) and saw claimant on the floor. She
could not recall if the floor was wet or damp when she got there.
Correction Officer Richard Morris was the front gate package room officer on
the date in question. He advised that visitors are processed from 7:30 a.m.
until 1:30 p.m. and that the mornings are generally busier than the afternoons.
When a visitor arrives with a package, the contents are checked and any
unauthorized items are given to the visitor with instructions to put the items
in their car or in a locker. Officer Morris stated that two inmate porters
worked in the area and their responsibilities included mopping the floors. They
would generally start mopping at the front of the building, proceed to the
package room and finish around the locker area. There were six Wet Floor signs
in the area that the inmates would use as they mopped section by section, using
the signs to cordon off each area in turn.
Officer Morris recalled claimant arriving at the package room counter sometime
after noon on the date in question. He checked the package she had brought for
her son and found some items that were not allowed in the facility. After he
advised her that visiting hours would be over in less than an hour, claimant
headed towards the locker area, where the inmate porters were mopping the floor.
According to Officer Morris, claimant’s husband remained with him at the
package counter while claimant walked over to the locker area. Morris could not
see claimant fall from the package room, but about 20 to 30 seconds after she
left his counter he heard a commotion and went over and saw claimant lying on
the floor about six feet short of the lockers. Officer Pratts and two inmates,
with a mop and pails, were also there. His recollection was that
claimant’s husband followed him over to the locker area after claimant
Wilfredo Pratts, a State Court Officer at the time of trial, was a Correction
Officer at Green Haven in January 2006 and was assigned as the front gate frisk
officer on the date in question. His description of the floor washing routine
was the same as that given by Officers Driver and Morris, in particular that the
mopping was done in sections, depending on the number of visitors in the area.
“If it was too busy in one side, then they’d go to another area, but
it was done in sections” (id., p 129). He also stated
“[t]hey would put up the wet floor signs in a square, and, you know,
that’s the area they would mop within the wet floor signs”
(id.). Pratts testified that when he first saw claimant, she was
standing in an area that he marked on Exhibit H, an area on the tile floor
between the runner and the lockers. He stated that it looked like she was
preparing to walk over to the lockers and he informed her that she
couldn’t walk there, that the floor was wet. She told him “I have
to get my things” and he allegedly responded that she would have to wait
until the floor dried, which shouldn’t take long (id., p 136).
Pratts then walked away, towards the package room. “A few minutes
later,” one of the inmates informed him that a visitor had fallen and he
walked back to the locker area and saw a woman on the floor (id., p 136).
He asked her if she was okay and she told him her wrist hurt. He also stated
that there was a man next to him or behind him who said “she’s hurt,
you know, we’re going to sue” (id., p 137). He identified
that man as claimant’s husband.
On cross-examination, claimant’s counsel pointed out that in his memo to
the sergeant written at the time of the incident, Pratts made no mention of
having spoken with claimant before her fall. Pratts stated that he did not
believe that to be pertinent at the time he wrote the memo.
The State of New York has the same duty of care as applies to any landowner: to
maintain its property in reasonably safe condition in view of all the relevant
circumstances (Miller v State of New York, 62 NY2d 506; Preston v
State of New York, 59 NY2d 997; Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233). Given
the ample testimony as to the slippery condition of the floor in the Green Haven
reception area after it was mopped, about which there was no dispute, the court
has little trouble concluding that the condition of the floor in front of the
locker area constituted a dangerous condition at the time of claimant’s
visit. There is no issue as to defendant’s notice of the condition, since
it was created by inmates under the supervision and direction of
defendant’s employees (Peralta v Henriquez, 100 NY2d 139; Lewis
v Metropolitan Transp. Auth., 64 NY2d 670, affg on op 99 AD2d 246),
and thus no question that defendant had a duty to post adequate warnings of the
condition and perhaps cordon off the specific area that had just been
Given the court’s prior rulings on the spoliation issue, there was no
proof that defendant fulfilled its duty of care by posting adequate warning of
the slippery condition of the floor in the area adjacent to the visitor lockers.
The court thus finds defendant liable for claimant’s injuries.
Nevertheless, the court further finds that claimant must share in the
responsibility for her fall. Claimant conceded that she had seen an inmate with
a mop in his hand and had seen a warning sign somewhere in the building, and she
acknowledged that she tried to stay on the runner when she could because the
floor was wet. It is apparent that when she stepped off the runner onto the
tile floor, she did not exercise the degree of caution warranted by what
knowledge she did have of the floor’s condition, even in light of the
court’s finding that the warning in the locker area was inadequate. The
court apportions liability of 50% each for the accident.
Accordingly, the Clerk of the Court is directed to enter interlocutory judgment
in accordance with this decision. The parties will be notified of the date
scheduled for a trial on damages.