New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
MC CAIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-010-032, Claim No. 117454


Inmate assault with metal weapon

Case information

UID: 2010-010-032
Claimant(s): ADRIAN MC CAIN
Claimant short name: MC CAIN
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 117454
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: Terry Jane Ruderman
Claimant's attorney: ADRIAN MC CAIN
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: May 4, 2010
City: White Plains
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant seeks damages for injuries he sustained during his incarceration at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (Sing Sing), when on September 5, 2009, Carlton Brown, another inmate, stabbed claimant with a metal weapon. Claimant contends that defendant was negligent in its failure to detect the weapon used by Brown and in preventing the attack.

According to claimant, on September 4, 2009, he and Brown had a confrontation. While claimant testified that Correction Officer Goffe was told about the fight, there is no record of a written report of the incident. Claimant also did not request protective custody. The following day, September 5, 2009, claimant and Brown exchanged blows in the gym. Officer Goffe observed the altercation and directed the inmates to stop and separate. They complied. Claimant sustained a small stab wound to the back of his shoulder. A flat metal shank weapon was retrieved from Brown.

Sergeant McNamara, who has been employed by the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) for 28 years and assigned to Sing Sing for 20 years, testified that for the past 15 years, he has been the A Block Housing Sergeant at Sing Sing. In his position, he is responsible for supervising the overall operation of the Block. He explained that, before inmates are admitted to the gym, the officer-in-charge makes a security round to look for contraband, such as weapons. Then, the inmates must proceed through a metal detector, located 15 feet from the gym door,(1) before entering the gym. If the metal detector goes off, the inmate is pat frisked.

McNamara investigated the September 5, 2009 incident (Ex. 1). He did not know how Brown came into possession of a weapon; however, McNamara noted that Brown was a program aide in the gym and therefore had greater access to the gym. During his investigation, McNamara learned of the September 4, 2009 incident; however there was no record of claimant reporting that incident or thereafter requesting protective custody.


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 including the risk of attack by other inmates (see Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342; Littlejohn v State of New York, 218 AD2d 833). "[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, 99 NY2d 247, 256).

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 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 foreseeable dangerous situation (see Colon v State of New York, 209 AD2d 842, 844).

In the instant case, claimant essentially argues that the security measures and supervision were so inadequate that it was reasonably foreseeable that Brown could possess a weapon and use it to assault claimant. This Court does not agree (see Vasquez v State of New York, 68 AD3d 1275 [absent sufficient details of prior assault in same location, claimant did not establish that the security measures were deficient or that defendant should have foreseen future incidents at that location]). Notably, claimant did not request protective custody after the September 4, 2009 confrontation, nor did claimant request that Brown be placed on claimant's enemies list (see Di Donato v State of New York, 25 AD3d 944, 945 [even where protective custody request by inmate was denied, court held that evidence was insufficient to establish assault was the foreseeable result of any breach of duty by defendant]; Elnandes v State of New York, 11 AD3d 828 [attack with metal object not foreseeable where assailant had no prior encounters with claimant and was not listed on claimant's enemies list]). There was also no evidence that either Brown was a "known dangerous prisoner" or that claimant was particularly prone to be the subject of assault (Auger v State of New York, 263 AD2d 929, 930).

Upon consideration of all the evidence, including listening to the witnesses testify and observing their demeanor as they did so, there is a lack of evidence sufficient to meet claimant's burden of proof. According to defendant 's security management procedures, the gym was searched and the inmates were subjected to a metal detector scanning prior to their entry into the gym. The inmates were further pat frisked when deemed necessary. Despite defendant's continued efforts and adherence to its security management procedures, the mere presence of a weapon does not mandate a finding of negligence in this case. The actions taken by defendant to secure claimant's safety in the gym were reasonable under the circumstances; therefore defendant is entitled to deference in managing the safety and order of its facility (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 216).

Accordingly, the claim warrants dismissal.


May 4, 2010

White Plains, New York

Terry Jane Ruderman

Judge of the Court of Claims

1. DOCS policy does not mandate the presence of a metal detector in this location.