New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

TORRES v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-040-080, Claim No. 110291


Claimant suffered cut on his arm because the corner of his locker was sharp and constituted a dangerous condition. Court finds Claimant failed to prove Claim by a preponderance of the credible evidence.

Case Information

1 1.Caption amended to reflect the State of New York as the proper defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
Caption amended to reflect the State of New York as the proper defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant’s attorney:
Carlos Torres, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Michael C. Rizzo, Esq., AAG
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
October 28, 2009

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Pro se Claimant, Carlos Torres, has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that Defendant was liable in connection with his Claim. The trial of this Claim was held by video conference on September 3, 2009, with the parties at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York and the Judge at the Court of Claims in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The Claim alleges that, on October 11, 2004 at approximately 10:25 p.m., Claimant was in his cube at Bare Hill Correctional Facility, located in Malone, New York, writing a letter to his family, when the pen he was using slipped from his hand and fell to the floor. Claimant stated he was “writing on my big locker” and had the door to the locker open. As he bent down to pick up his pen, he cut his left forearm on the corner of the locker. Claimant asserts that the lockers have very sharp edges and constitute a dangerous condition. Claimant went to the facility infirmary and received treatment (see Ex. A, unnumbered p. 17).

To establish a prima facie case of negligence, Claimant must demonstrate by a preponderance of the credible evidence that: (1) Defendant owed Claimant a duty of care; (2) a breach of that duty; and (3) Defendant’s breach of that duty was a substantial factor in the events that caused the injury suffered by Claimant (see Derdiarian v Felix Contr. Corp., 51 NY2d 308, 315 [1980];Kampff v Ulster Sanitation, 280 AD2d 797 [3d Dept 2001]; Patrick v State of New York, 11 Misc 3d 296, 320 [Ct Cl 2005]; PJI 2:10, 2:70).

The State has a duty to maintain its facilities “in a reasonably safe condition in view of all the circumstances, including the likelihood of injury to others, the seriousness of the injury, and the burden of avoiding the risk,” with foreseeability constituting the measure of liability (Basso v Miller, 40 NY2d 233, 241 [1976], quoting Smith v Arbaugh’s Rest., 469 F2d 97, 100 [DC Cir 1972], cert denied 412 US 939 [1973]; see Miller v State of New York, 62 NY2d 506, 513 [1984]; Preston v State of New York, 59 NY2d 997, 998 [1983]).

That duty extends to the State’s institutions, including its correctional facilities. The State is not an insurer of the safety of its inmates, however, and negligence cannot be inferred solely from the occurrence of an accident (see Killeen v State of New York, 66 NY2d 850 [1985]; Heliodore v State of New York, 305 AD2d 708, 709 [3d Dept 2003]; Bowers v State of New York, 241 AD2d 760 [3d Dept 1997]; Condon v State of New York, 193 AD2d 874 [3d Dept 1993]). Moreover, a claimant has the duty to use reasonable care to observe his or her surroundings, to see what is there to be seen and to avoid accidents (Weigand v United Traction Co., 221 NY 39, 42 [1917]).

In order to establish a breach of that duty, it is incumbent upon Claimant to establish that: (1) a dangerous condition existed; (2) Defendant either created the dangerous condition or had actual or constructive notice thereof and failed to alleviate the condition within a reasonable time; and (3) such condition was a substantial factor in the events that caused the injury suffered by Claimant (see Gordon v American Museum of Natural History, 67 NY2d 836, 837 [1986]; Medina v Sears, Roebuck & Co., 41 AD3d 798, 799 [2d Dept 2007]).

The Court has considered all the evidence, including a review of the exhibit and listening to the Claimant testify and observing his demeanor as he did so. The Court finds that Claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that Defendant had either actual or constructive notice of an allegedly dangerous condition.

To the extent Mr. Torres is asserting an action premised on medical malpractice or that medical negligence occurred because he was denied adequate medical treatment, the cause of action must fail as Claimant failed to submit any testimony or evidence regarding this issue at trial. The Court concludes that such cause of action is dismissed for failure of proof.

Defendant’s motion to dismiss, made at the conclusion of the trial and upon which the Court reserved decision, is now granted and the Claim is dismissed.

The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

October 28, 2009
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims