New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
PATTERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-010-012, Claim No. 116039


Inmate pro se claims dismissed, defendant not negligent as to security measures and not liable for claimant's alleged loss of property.

Case information

UID: 2010-010-012
Claimant short name: PATTERSON
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 116039
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant's attorney: BERNARD PATTERSON
Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO
Attorney General for the State of New York
By: Elyse Angelico, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: February 4, 2010
City: White Plains
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant seeks damages for injuries he allegedly sustained while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing). Claim No. 116039 raises two distinct issues which claimant refers to as Claim 1 and Claim 2.

Claim 1 - Inmate Assault

Claimant testified that on September 22, 2008, while he was in Involuntary Protective Custody (IPC), he was assaulted by inmate Moore. Claimant testified that, prior to the incident, he had never spoken to Moore and that Moore was not on claimant's enemies list. Claimant alleges that defendant is liable for this attack because Correction Officer Ellis told Moore that claimant was a "snitch" and a "cell thief"(1) and thereafter defendant failed to provide claimant with proper protection and supervision on the unit.

Correction Officer Beatrice Ellis testified that she knew both claimant and Moore and had never told anyone that claimant was a snitch. Moreover, she had never spoken to any inmate about claimant.

Captain Neil Ingenito testified that he was aware of the allegations against Ellis and that an investigation in regard to a grievance filed revealed no evidence to support the allegations.

It is well settled that the State is required to use reasonable care to protect the inmates of its correctional facilities from foreseeable risks of harm (see Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342; Dizak v State of New York, 124 AD2d 329; Sebastiano v State of New York, 112 AD2d 562). Foreseeable risks of harm include the risk of attack by other prisoners (see Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833). That duty, however, does not render the State an insurer of inmate safety (see Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247). The State's duty is to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable attacks by other inmates (see Padgett v State of New York, 163 AD2d 914). The test for liability has evolved from the strict requirement of specific knowledge to encompass not only what the State actually knew, but also "what the State reasonably should have known - for example, from its knowledge of risks to a class of inmates based on the institution's expertise or prior experience, or from its own policies and practices designed to address such risks" (Sanchez v State of New York, supra at 254 [emphasis in original]).

To establish liability in an inmate assault case, claimant must demonstrate one of the following: (1) the State knew or should have known that claimant was at risk of being assaulted and yet failed to provide claimant with reasonable protection; (2) the State knew or should have known that the assailant was prone to perpetrating such an assault and the State did not take proper precautionary measures; or (3) the State had ample notice and opportunity to intervene but did not act (id.). "The State will be liable in negligence for an assault by another inmate only upon a showing that it failed to exercise adequate care to prevent that which was reasonably foreseeable" (Wilson v State of New York, 303 AD2d 678, 679).

"[T]he State's duty to prisoners does not mandate unremitting surveillance in all circumstances, and does not render the State an insurer of inmate safety. * * * The mere occurrence of an inmate assault, without credible evidence that the assault was reasonably foreseeable, cannot establish the negligence of the State" (Sanchez v State of New York, supra at 256). The mere fact that a correction officer may not have been present when an assault occurred does not give rise to an inference of negligence absent a showing that prison officials had notice of a foreseeably dangerous situation (see Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842, 844).

Upon consideration of all the evidence, including listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that the credible evidence established that the security measures and supervision of the inmates was not negligent and that defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances as they existed.

Claim 2 - Property Claim

Claimant seeks $125 in damages for personal property he allegedly lost when he was placed in IPC on August 12, 2008.

Claimant testified that his property was packed by a correction officer who failed to complete an I-64 Form as mandated by Department of Correctional Services Directive 4917. He filed a facility claim which was denied.

Ingenito testified as to the procedures when an inmate is transferred from general population to IPC. A correction officer is supposed to pack everything in an inmate's cell and complete a SHU Property Process Form. There is no requirement that the property be itemized. The evidence revealed that Correction Officer Baker completed the appropriate form (Ex. A, p 4) and also wrote a memorandum indicating that he had packed claimant's property and forwarded it to HB-C, the IPC unit (id. at 3). Ingenito explained that the Directive requiring completion of an I-64 Form applies only to transfers outside the facility and not to transfers within the facility (Ex. 5, III, E.1; III, F.1). Here, claimant's property was not placed in storage; rather it was packed and sent directly to IPC.

Upon listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, the Court finds that there was a lack of sufficient evidence to establish entitlement to an award of damages to claimant. Indeed, claimant failed to establish the specific items which were in his possession and their value. Moreover, the evidence established that defendant packed the items and completed the necessary form. Accordingly, there is no basis for finding defendant liable for claimant's alleged loss of property.


All motions not heretofore ruled upon are DENIED.

February 4, 2010

White Plains, New York

Terry Jane Ruderman

Judge of the Court of Claims

1. All quotations are to the trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.