New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
CLARK v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-016-020, Claim No. 111034


Case information

UID: 2010-016-020
Claimant short name: CLARK
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 111034
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: Alan C. Marin
Claimant's attorney: Rinaldo Clark, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: James E. Shoemaker, AAG
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 17, 2010
City: New York
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


This decision follows the trial of the claim of Rinaldo Clark. In his claim, Mr. Clark, an inmate at Sullivan Correctional Facility, alleges that he received inadequate medical treatment in connection with a dislocated finger that he suffered at the facility on October 25, 2003.

Rinaldo testified as follows. While playing sports in the prison yard that day, claimant, who is right handed, stubbed the middle finger of his left hand, dislocating it. He reported to sick call, where a nurse gave him Tylenol and told him to have one of his friends put the finger back in place because there was no x-ray technician available. He went back to his housing unit, but returned to sick call later that night because he was still in pain. A different nurse was there, and she gave him more Tylenol and ice, saying, "[i]t's just a dislocation" and, like the other nurse, advising him to "have a friend do it."

On the following day, claimant went back to sick call where he saw a third nurse who, according to claimant, told him that she didn't know why he hadn't been sent out for outside treatment. That nurse put claimant on "Telemed" to see a doctor. According to claimant, the doctor said that he had an injury that required immediate care, and he instructed the nurse to "relocate" claimant's finger. Claimant maintained that the nurse refused, upon which the doctor said that if she wasn't going to do it, claimant should be sent out for medical treatment.

Rinaldo recalled that he was then taken out to Harris Hospital. He said that there, they "tried to get it in place," but couldn't, telling him that because the injury had happened the day before, it had started healing. He testified that two days later, he saw a specialist at Albany Medical Center who "tried his best," but couldn't get the finger in place because it had been "sitting" too long. According to claimant, that doctor told him that his finger would probably be disfigured, and advised him that he would need surgery if it healed badly.

Claimant stated that he had physical therapy for a year and a half. At some point, he requested surgery because he was still in pain, but the facility refused. He said that after he filed a grievance which was granted, he eventually had surgery at Kingston Hospital. Claimant maintained that even after the surgery, his finger is still deformed, which he attributed to a lack of medical care.

Asked about the impact of his injury, claimant explained that he is a typist and had worked in cryptology while in military service, stating that he would have liked to pursue that when released from prison, adding that he used to be able to type very quickly and is now much slower. He added that the injury caused him emotional distress, that he is still taking medication for pain and swelling, and has limited movement, such that he can't make a complete fist.

* * *

Defendant called Dr. Wladyslaw Sidorowicz, a Department of Correctional Services physician who had reviewed claimant's medical records in connection with the injury.

Dr. Sidorowicz testified that claimant's accident occurred during a weekend. At that time, he was seen by a nurse and given a splint and dressing and scheduled to see a doctor. Sidorowicz explained that there was an x-ray referral in claimant's records, but that x-rays are not taken over the weekend except in the case of emergency. He added that when claimant was initially seen on October 25, there was no evidence of a fracture or other injury that would require immediately sending claimant out. According to Sidorowicz, the normal treatment for a dislocation without vascular complication would be a sling, hot compresses for swelling, as well as pain medication.

Dr. Sidorowicz said that on the next day, claimant was seen by a doctor at Harris Hospital by Telemed, and that doctor recommended that claimant be taken to the emergency room. Clark was taken to the Harris Hospital emergency room, and the recommendation at such facility was that he be given a splint, ice to reduce the swelling, pain medication if needed, and that he should be referred to an orthopedist. According to Dr. Sidorowicz, claimant's medical records from that visit indicate that he had tried to reduce the finger by himself four times.

On October 28, 2003, claimant was seen at Albany Medical Center. Claimant's medical records from that date (see claimant's exhibit 1 and defendant's exhibit A) indicate that the dislocation was ultimately "reduced" that day. Thereafter, claimant was approved by the Department of Correctional Services for a consultation with an orthopedist, which occurred at Albany Medical Center on November 20, 2003. The orthopedist did not recommend surgery at that time. Claimant again saw the orthopedist in January 2004, and again surgery was not recommended.

According to Dr. Sidorowicz, in August 2004, claimant had additional x-rays, which showed that he had developed some flexion deformity, and he could not completely straighten his finger. Sidorowicz explained that this is very common with a dislocation. Claimant then saw the orthopedist again in August and November of 2004, and by the end of 2004, the orthopedist recommended surgery, which claimant had on February 28, 2005. Dr. Sidorowicz said that claimant's condition did not change from the time he saw the orthopedist in August 2004 until he had the surgery on February 28, 2005, explaining that that delay did not affect the ultimate outcome.

Following the surgery, which involved cleaning the area of scar tissue to help the finger flex completely and have better mobility, claimant next saw the orthopedist in March of 2005, at which time his finger was described as well healed, with no pain and a good result. Claimant was also provided with 40 sessions of physical therapy. According to Dr. Sidorowicz, the records indicate that by the end of the physical therapy, claimant's finger function was much better, as was his grip. He noted that claimant has not required much follow up in the ensuing years, and the doctor described claimant as having no disability at this time.

Finally, Dr. Sidorowicz testified that to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, there was no deviation in the standard of care provided to claimant and that the timing of his treatment did not influence the ultimate result.

* * *

It is settled law that the State owes a duty to its inmates to provide them with adequate medical care. Kagan v State of New York, 221 AD2d 7 (2d Dept 1996). But in order to prevail here, claimant would be required to present testimony from a physician that there was a deviation from accepted standards of medical care in connection with such treatment, which proximately caused him injury. See, e.g., Lyons v McCauley, 252 AD2d 516 (2d Dept 1998), lv denied 92 NY2d 814 (1998). Claimant failed to present any such testimony.

Accordingly, claim no. 111034 is dismissed. LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

March 17, 2010

New York, New York

Alan C. Marin

Judge of the Court of Claims