New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SANTIAGO v. STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2021-015-036, Claim No. 132357, Motion No. M-96383

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for the imposition of discovery sanctions was denied as his discovery requests were over broad.

Case information

UID: 2021-015-036
Claimant(s): EMMANUEL SANTIAGO
Claimant short name: SANTIAGO
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 132357
Motion number(s): M-96383
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Goldstein & Handwerker, LLP
By: Steven Goldstein, Esq.
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Thomas P. Carafa, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: March 5, 2021
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant moves for the imposition of sanctions pursuant to CPLR 3126 for defendant's willful failure to comply with discovery.

Claimant, a prison inmate, filed a claim alleging he was slashed in the face by another inmate in front of Dorm 73-A at Mohawk Correctional Facility on October 13, 2018.(1) By letters dated February 3, 2020 and November 9, 2020, claimant requested, as pertinent here, the following discovery:

"2. Plaintiff demands all 'Unusual Incident Reports' for the are[a] on the Walkway from Building 22 where this occurred from October 2016 to October 2018.

3. Plaintiff demands all "Unusual Incident Reports' related to any stabbings/slashings that occurred in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 as testified to by Sgt. Witzigman today" (claimant's Exhibit 5).

Defendant objected to both discovery requests on the grounds they are "palpably

improper in that [they are] overly broad, unduly burdensome, harassing, ambiguous, confusing and irrelevant to the subject matter of the pending Claim, nor [are they] reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence in connection with the Claim" (claimant's Exhibit 6; see also claimant's Exhibit 9).

CPLR 3101 (a) provides for the "full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action." The Court of Appeals has interpreted these words liberally to require the disclosure "of any facts bearing on the controversy which will assist preparation for trial by sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity. The test is one of usefulness and reason" (Allen v Crowell-Collier Publ. Co., 21 NY2d 403, 406 [1968]; accord Loiselle v Progressive Cas. Ins. Co.,190 AD3d 17 [3d Dept 2020]; Galasso v Cobleskill Stone Prods., Inc., 169 AD3d 1344 [3d Dept 2019]; Palmatier v Mr. Heater Corp., 156 AD3d 1167 [3d Dept 2017]). The scope of this statute is very broad, "consistent with New York's policy of permitting 'open and far-reaching pretrial discovery' " (Kavanagh v Ogden Allied Maintenance Corp., 92 NY2d 952, 954 [1998] [citation omitted]). The party seeking disclosure need only establish either "that the method of discovery sought will result in the disclosure of relevant evidence or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims" (Gomez v State of New York, 106 AD3d 870, 872 [2d Dept 2013], quoting Vyas v Campbell, 4 AD3d 417, 418 [2d Dept 2004] [other citation omitted]; see also Schonbrun v DeLuke, 160 AD3d 1100, 1102 [3d Dept 2018]; Jordan v Blue Circle Atl., 296 AD2d 752 [3d Dept 2002]).

Here, the Court agrees that the request for all Unusual Incident Reports from October 2016 to October 2018 documenting incidents of every nature on the walkway from Building 22 is over broad and not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Such a request would include reports documenting not only inmate-on-inmate assaults, but incidents of every nature having nothing to do with the supervision and protection of inmates from foreseeable assaults by other inmates. Accordingly, the defendant need not respond to this request.

Claimant's request for all "Unusual Incident Reports' related to any stabbings/slashings that occurred in the years 2016, 2017 and 2018 as testified to by Sgt. Witzigman today" is also overbroad (claimant's Exhibit 5). The request is not limited to either the Mohawk Correctional Facility or the particular area where this incident occurred, and reports of stabbings at other prison facilities have little, if any, probative value on the issue of foreseeability of the incident in this case. Although the Court of Appeals in Jacqueline S. v City of New York (81 NY2d 288 [1993], rearg denied 83 NY2d 749 [1993]) made clear that the operative proof in cases alleging negligent security is not limited to crimes actually occurring in the specific building where the attack took place, unlike the public housing complex at issue in that case, DOCCS' facilities are located throughout the State, and they have different physical characteristics and security classifications. Consequently, a history of inmate-on-inmate assaults occurring at one prison facility has little or no bearing on the likelihood of an assault at another prison facility. For this reason, the claimant's discovery demand number "3" is overbroad.

Accordingly, claimant's motion is denied.

March 5, 2021

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

  1. Notice of Motion dated January 14, 2021;
  2. Affirmation in Support dated January 14, 2021 with Exhibits 1-9;
  3. Affirmation in Opposition dated February 24, 2021.

1. Although the claim alleges the details of the incident and where it occurred, it does not allege that the State was negligent in supervising or protecting the inmates under its control.