New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMSON v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-039-115, Claim No. 105989, Motion No. M-75333


Synopsis


Claimant moves the Court for an order granting summary judgment with respect to his claim that the State is liable for injuries he sustained on April 20, 2001 when he was attacked by a fellow inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility after prison officials denied his requests for protective custody. Following a review of the proof, the Court is unable to conclude that claimant met his prima facie burden to establish that the harm he suffered was reasonably foreseeable by prison officials.

Case Information

UID:
2009-039-115
Claimant(s):
SHIKILE WILLIAMSON, 89-B-1580
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMSON
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105989
Motion number(s):
M-75333
Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
James H. Ferreira
Claimant’s attorney:
Shikile Williamson, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Michele M. WallsAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 4, 2009
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant alleges that the State (hereinafter defendant) is liable for injuries he sustained on April 20, 2001 when he was attacked by a fellow inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility. More specifically, claimant alleges that defendant “fail[ed] to protect him from a reasonably foreseeable inmate attack even though [defendant] had been informed of a threat to claimants safety” (Claim ¶ 18). Issue was joined on June 4, 2002 by service of a verified answer upon claimant, pursuant to the affidavit of service annexed thereto, and in compliance with section 206.7 of the Uniform Rules for the Court of Claims. Claimant now moves the Court for an order granting summary judgment.

It is well settled that “[o]n a motion for summary judgment, a movant is required to establish by competent and admissible evidence a prima facie entitlement to judgment” (Howard v J.A.J. Realty Enters., 283 AD2d 854, 855 [2001]). “If this burden is met, then the opponent to a motion for summary judgment has the affirmative burden of coming forward with competent, admissible evidence establishing the existence of a genuine triable issue of fact” (id.). Here, the Court finds that claimant has failed to meet his prima facie burden and, accordingly, that summary judgment is not warranted.

“Defendant’s duty is clear” (Sanchez v State of New York, 36 AD3d 1065, 1066 [2007]). “ ‘Having assumed physical custody of inmates, who cannot protect and defend themselves in the same way as those at liberty can, [defendant] owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, even from attacks by fellow inmates,’ (id., quoting Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247, 252 [2002]), but negligence may not be inferred merely because an incident occurred” (id.). “The scope of the duty owed is defined by the risk of harm reasonably to be perceived” (id.). “ ‘Although the precise manner in which the harm occurred need not be foreseeable, liability does not attach unless the harm is within the class of reasonably foreseeable hazards that the duty exists to prevent’ ” (id., quoting Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d at 252). “Both what defendant actually knew and what defendant reasonably should have known are within the ambit of foreseeability” (id.). Moreover, “[a]bsent a showing of dangerousness, ‘unremitting supervision’ is unnecessary” (id. at 1067, quoting Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842, 844 [1994]).

In support of his motion, claimant offers, among other things, copies of interdepartmental communications which establish that prison officials interviewed claimant on at least three occasions prior to the date of the alleged incident to determine whether claimant qualified for protective custody (see Claimant’s Exhibits “2,” “3,” and “4”). Following each occasion, prison officials denied claimant’s requests for protective custody on the grounds that claimant was unable to identify any enemies, and that claimant based the need for protective custody upon the nature of his crime (see Claimant’s Exhibit “1”).

Upon a review of claimant’s supporting affidavits and exhibits, the Court finds that the decisions by prison officials to deny claimant’s requests for protective custody were not unreasonable. The gravamen of claimant’s request for protective custody was that his fellow inmates knew about his conviction for rape (see Claimant’s Exhibits “5”, “9”). Moreover, memoranda from prison officials reveal investigations of the inmate’s allegations and consideration of his requests for protective custody. Thus, the Court cannot conclude at this stage of the proceeding that claimant has met his prima facie burden to establish that the harm he suffered was reasonably foreseeable by prison officials.

Accordingly, M-75333 is hereby denied.


March 4, 2009
Albany, New York

HON. JAMES H. FERREIRA
Judge of the Court of Claims


Papers Considered
:
  1. Notice of Motion for Summary Judgment dated July 30, 2008;
  2. Affidavit in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment by Shikile Williamson sworn to on July 30, 2008;
  3. Book of Exhibits “1” - “19” for Summary Judgment dated July 30, 2008;
  4. Affirmation in Opposition to Claimant’s Motion for Summary Judgment by Michele M. Walls, AAG dated August 25, 2008 with exhibits; and
  5. Claimant’s “Affirmation in Opposition Thereto Defendant’s Affirmation in Opposition to Claimant’s Motion for Summary Judgment” sworn to on September 19, 2008.