New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SCHUMAKER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2017-041-065, Claim No. 128439, Motion No. M-90518, Cross-Motion No. CM-90604

Synopsis

Claimant's motion to compel discovery in this dental malpractice claim arising from dental treatment following an inmate-on-inmate assault is granted as to photograph[s] of claimant's injured tooth, denied with respect to claimant's demand for a copy of the incident report of the alleged assault upon claimant by the fellow inmate and denied as to disclosure of claimant's mental health records; Defendant's cross-motion for a protective order is denied.

Case information

UID: 2017-041-065
Claimant(s): DYLAN SCHUMAKER
Claimant short name: SCHUMAKER
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 128439
Motion number(s): M-90518
Cross-motion number(s): CM-90604
Judge: FRANK P. MILANO
Claimant's attorney: DYLAN SCHUMAKER
Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
New York State Attorney General
By: Joan Matalavage, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 12, 2017
City: Albany
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

In this dental malpractice action claimant moves for an order pursuant to CPLR 3124 compelling production of designated documents, photographs and medical records. Defendant opposes claimant's motion and cross-moves for a protective order.

The claim alleges that defendant is liable for dental malpractice in its treatment of the claimant while claimant was incarcerated at Clinton Correctional facility. In particular, claimant alleges that his tooth was chipped in an altercation with a fellow inmate on April 14, 2015 and that, beginning on the following day, April 15, 2015, defendant failed to provide timely and appropriate dental treatment.

Claimant seeks disclosure of copies of an incident report dated April 14, 2015 and copies of photographs taken following the April 14, 2015 incident. Claimant also seeks copies of his mental health records.

Defendant opposes disclosure of the records and photographs because "records from the alleged assault are totally irrelevant to any allegation of dental and/or medical care" by defendant following the assault and argues claimant should seek to obtain his own mental health records, if relevant, from "his mental health provider (if any)."

The Court has "broad discretion in managing disclosure, and absent an abuse of discretion or unreasonable interference with the disclosure of relevant and necessary material," that discretion will not be disturbed (Czarnecki v Welch, 23 AD3d 914, 915 [3d Dept 2005]).

It is equally clear that "[w]hile disclosure provisions are to be liberally construed, the trial court is vested with broad discretion to supervise discovery and determine what is 'material and necessary' under CPLR 3101 (a)" (Mora v RGB, Inc., 17 AD3d 849, 851 [3d Dept 2005]).

The standard of materiality is "one of usefulness and reason," with the goal of "sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]).

Protective orders are governed by CPLR 3103 which provides at relevant part as follows:

"(a) Prevention of abuse. The court may at any time on its own initiative, or on motion of any party or of any person from whom or about whom discovery is sought, make a protective order denying, limiting, conditioning or regulating the use of any disclosure device. Such order shall be designed to prevent unreasonable annoyance, expense, embarrassment, disadvantage, or other prejudice to any person or the courts."

With these principles in mind, the Court has carefully reviewed the parties contentions. First, the Court agrees that claimant has not shown that the details of the incident report of the alleged April 14, 2015 assault of claimant by a fellow inmate are relevant to the defendant's dental treatment of claimant that began the following day. Claimant's motion is denied in this regard.

With respect to photographs of the alleged injury to claimant's tooth, however, the Court agrees with claimant that photographs depicting the alleged injury and the condition of the tooth at the commencement of the dental treatment are relevant to the dental malpractice claim and these photographs are ordered to be disclosed.

Finally, with respect to the claimant's allegation that his mental health records are needed to show his mental anguish damages, the Court agrees with defendant that claimant must first seek disclosure of his mental health records directly from his mental health provider, prior to seeking judicial assistance in compelling production of the records.

Claimant's request for an order compelling discovery is denied in part and granted in part as set forth above.

Defendant's request for a protective order is denied as defendant has not shown that claimant "is engaging in abusive behavior" as alleged by defendant.

September 12, 2017

Albany, New York

FRANK P. MILANO

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Claimant's Notice of Motion to Compel, filed June 2, 2017;

2. Affidavit of Dylan Schumaker, sworn to May 23, 2017, and attached exhibits;

3. Defendant's Notice of Cross-Motion for a Protective Order, filed June 15, 2017;

4. Unsworn "Affidavit" of Joan Matalavage, dated June 15, 2017, and attached exhibits;

5. Affidavit in Response of Dylan Schumaker, sworn to June 22, 2017.