New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SEYMOUR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2010-029-054, Claim No. 115086

Synopsis

Inmate's medical malpractice claim based on treatment of finger injured in basketball game is dismissed for lack of proof.

Case information

UID: 2010-029-054
Claimant(s): JONAH T. SEYMOUR, JR.
Claimant short name: SEYMOUR
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 115086
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney: JONAH T. SEYMOUR, JR., pro se
Defendant's attorney: ANDREW M. CUOMO, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: Michael Krenrich, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: November 19, 2010
City: White Plains
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an inmate at Shawangunk Correctional Facility, seeks damages for the alleged failure of defendant's employees to provide adequate and timely treatment for an injured finger claimant suffered in a basketball game on November 30, 2006. Claimant testified that he was seen in the facility's infirmary after the 8:45 p.m. injury, where a nurse applied a splint, was told that he would be seen by a doctor the next day, Friday, December 1, but did not in fact see a doctor until the following Monday and did not have X-rays taken until December 4. He testified he did not see an orthopedist until 36 days after the injury and contended that he "never got adequate medical treatment and . . . ended up with a worse injury."

Claimant's Ambulatory Health Record reflects that the second knuckle on claimant's left hand was swollen and painful when he was seen immediately after the injury, a splint was applied, ice and Ibuprofen prescribed, and an X-ray scheduled for December 1 (Exhibit 1, p 1). Although claimant returned to the infirmary on December 1, the X-ray, which was negative, was not taken until Monday, December 4 (id., p 10, 11). The notes from this period reflect that the joint was swollen and claimant was prescribed ice, Ibuprofen and Naprosyn. Claimant was seen again at sick call on December 7 and 18, 2006 and on numerous dates throughout 2007, during which time the pain, swelling and limitation of motion did not improve despite continued medication and physical therapy (Exhibit 3). He was seen by orthopedists on January 17, January 27 and February 6, 2007, at which time it was noted that he had a left fifth "PTP joint ligament injury" (Exhibit 3).

Claimant was examined by Dr. Benjamin Berenfeld on October 17, 2007. The doctor noted a one-year history of pain and swelling of claimant's left middle finger. The doctor observed significant swelling as well as limitation of motion and scheduled claimant for exploratory surgery with possible reconstruction of the collateral ligament (id.). The surgery took place on November 29 and, although the court was not provided with any hospital records or reports from the surgery, the notes in claimant's Ambulatory Health Record reflect that he returned to the correctional facility and continued to receive treatment during December 2007 and January 2008.

In order to sustain his claim, claimant was required to prove two things: (1) that the treatment rendered to him constituted a departure from accepted medical practice and (2) that such departure was a proximate cause of injury (Frye v Montefiore Med. Ctr., 70 AD3d 15). Here, as in most cases of alleged medical malpractice or medical negligence, claimant's allegations are "not within the ordinary experience and knowledge of lay persons [and] expert medical opinion is a required element of a prima facie case" (Wells v State of New York, 228 AD2d 581, 582, lv denied 88 NY2d 814). Claimant's failure to present medical testimony concluding that the treatment rendered to claimant was somehow deficient, delayed or in any way a departure from proper and accepted practice is necessarily fatal to his case, notwithstanding his own speculation and conclusion that he was not provided with proper and timely medical treatment (Tatta v State of New York, 19 AD3d 817, lv denied 5 NY3d 712). And regardless of the lack of medical testimony, there is absolutely no indication from the records submitted to the court that claimant's symptoms were not the result of the original injury as opposed to either a failure to provide proper treatment or a delay in providing such treatment and no indication that the damaged ligaments should have been diagnosed sooner or that the attempt to treat the symptoms with medication and physical therapy prior to resorting to surgery was in any way improper or dilatory.

Accordingly, for the reasons stated, the court now grants defendant's motion to dismiss the claim for failure to prove a prima facie case and the Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

November 19, 2010

White Plains, New York

STEPHEN J. MIGNANO

Judge of the Court of Claims