New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HILL v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-009-100, Claim No. 112112

Synopsis

Claimant's claim seeking damages for an injury he suffered when he fell while attempting to access his top bunk bed at Marcy Correctional Facility was dismissed, based upon the Court's finding that the State did not have any prior notice, and that claimant did not qualify under the established criteria for a bottom bunk assignment.

Case information

UID: 2010-009-100
Claimant(s): NATHANIEL HILL
Claimant short name: HILL
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 112112
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant's attorney: NATHANIEL HILL, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General
BY: G. Lawrence Dillon, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney General
Of Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 2, 2010
City: Syracuse
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

In this claim, claimant seeks damages for an injury suffered by him when he fell while attempting to access the top bunk bed to which he had been assigned as an inmate incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility (Marcy). The trial of this claim was bifurcated, and this decision addresses solely the issue of liability.

Based upon the claim and trial testimony, this incident occurred on March 11, 2006 at approximately 11:00 p.m. in cube 43 of the C-1 Housing Unit at Marcy, where claimant had been assigned the top bunk of a double bunk bed. Claimant testified that he had to step from a chair to a big locker in order to access his top bunk. He testified that as he attempted to step from the chair to the locker, he slipped and fell to the floor, and that he cut his right foot on a sharp edge of the metal locker. He testified that he suffered a cut to his right big toe, and that he was taken to the infirmary for emergency medical treatment. Claimant testified that his cut was treated with gauze and a Band-Aid, and that his injury took approximately two weeks to heal. He acknowledged that he was not prescribed any medication for the injury. Claimant testified that during the two weeks that it took for his injury to heal, he had a difficult time walking.

Under cross-examination, claimant acknowledged that he had been assigned to this top bunk at Marcy for a period ranging from one week to one month prior to the accident, and that during this time he had not experienced any problems in climbing up or down from his top bunk. He also admitted that prior to this accident, he had been assigned to top bunks in other facilities and had never experienced any such problems.

Claimant also admitted that he did not satisfy any of the criteria that would make him eligible for a bottom bunk under the rules and regulations pertaining to double-cell housing in correctional facilities (7 NYCRR 1701.5). Specifically, claimant acknowledged that he did not weigh over 300 pounds, that he did not suffer from seizures or diabetes, that he was not over 70 years of age, that he had no chronic back issues, that he was not an amputee, and he did not have any fractures. It is well settled that the State has a duty to use reasonable care to protect the inmates in its correctional facilities from foreseeable risk, of harm (Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342; Casella v State of New York, 121 AD2d 495). It is equally well settled, however, that the State is not an insurer of inmate safety (Hirsh v State of New York, 8 NY2d 125). The State has a duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining its property in a reasonably safe condition considering all of the circumstances (Emmi v State of New York, 143 AD2d 876).

In this case, the State did not have any notice that claimant was experiencing any difficulties ascending to or descending from his upper bunk prior to this accident. In fact, claimant acknowledged in his testimony that he had been assigned top bunks at other facilities without any problems, and had not experienced any problems at Marcy prior to his fall. Furthermore, the use of lockers to provide access to an upper bunk is insufficient, in and of itself, to establish negligence against the State for failing to provide reasonable access (Mitchell v State of New York, Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J., filed October 24, 2000, Claim No. 96998). Furthermore, claimant has failed to establish that he satisfied any of the criteria that would entitle him to a lower bunk assignment, or that the State violated any rule or regulation by assigning him to the upper bunk (Taylor v State of New York, Ct Cl, Collins, J., filed April 28, 1998, Claim No. 92111).

At the close of claimant's proof, defendant made a motion for a directed verdict dismissing this claim based upon a failure of the claimant to establish a prima facie case, upon which the Court reserved decision. Based upon the foregoing, the Court now finds that claimant has failed to establish any negligence on the part of the State of New York, and defendant's motion to dismiss this claim is hereby granted.

Therefore, this claim is hereby DISMISSED.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

March 2, 2010

Syracuse, New York

NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.

Judge of the Court of Claims