New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SMITH v. STATE OF NEW YORK, WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER, # 2017-045-026, Claim No. 129182, Motion No. M-89958

Synopsis

Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) 3211(a)(2) and Court of Claims Act 10 and 11 due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Allegations by inmate of improper medical treatment which occurred at outside hospital.

Case information

UID: 2017-045-026
Claimant(s): KENNETH SMITH
Claimant short name: SMITH
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): STATE OF NEW YORK, WESTCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 129182
Motion number(s): M-89958
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: GINA M. LOPEZ-SUMMA
Claimant's attorney: Kenneth Smith, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Hon. Eric T. Schneiderman, Attorney General
By: Joseph E. Scolavino, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: July 6, 2017
City: Hauppauge
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The following papers were read and considered by the Court on this motion: Defendant's Notice of Motion, Defendant's Affirmation in Support, Defendant's Memorandum of Law with annexed Exhibit A, Claimant's letter to the Court dated Match 9, 2017 and Claimant's Reply.

Defendant, the State of New York, has brought this motion pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) 3211 (a) (2) as well as Court of Claims Act (CCA) 10 and 11 seeking an order dismissing the claim. Claimant, Kenneth Smith, a pro se inmate, opposed this motion.

Claimant alleges in his claim that on December 14, 2016 he was examined by a Dr. Weber, an oral surgeon who runs the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic at Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, New York. Claimant underwent a CAT-scan at the medical center after which Dr. Weber determined that claimant did not need any further surgery to remedy claimant's "Ankylosis" condition. At some point prior to this examination, claimant underwent a medical procedure at the Westchester County Medical Center under general anesthesia wherein unnamed physicians at the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic performed a manipulation of claimant's jaw. Claimant alleges that the Westchester County Medical Center is therefore responsible for creating his current injury that Dr. Weber refuses to remedy with another surgery.

Defendant argues that the claim must be dismissed since the Westchester County Medical Center is a public benefits corporation, separate and independent from the State of New York, over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction (see Public Authorities Law 3301).

Defendant is correct in its assertion that the Westchester County Medical Center is a public benefits corporation, separate and independent from the State of New York, and thus not subject to the limited jurisdiction of the Court of Claims (CCA 9; see Randolph v Westchester Med. Ctr., 122 AD3d 822 [2d Dept 2014]). However, the Court's analysis does not end there.

"It is fundamental law that defendant has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prison. Doctors that provide medical care for inmates-whether in an employment or independent contractor context-remain subject to the traditional rules of medical malpractice. Traditionally, a hospital or medical facility is liable only for the medical malpractice of its employees and not that of independently contracted doctors. However, a hospital or an entity, such as DOCCS, may be vicariously liable for the medical malpractice of independent contractors in certain circumstances based on a theory of 'agency or control in fact, or apparent or ostensible agency'" (Garofolo v State of New York, 135 AD3d 1108 [2d Dept 2016], internal citations omitted).

Claimant fails to allege an agency relationship in his claim. To the contrary, claimant explicitly asserts that it is the Westchester County Medical Center that is responsible for creating his injury and that it is Dr. Weber, the head of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Clinic at the Westchester County Medical Center, that is refusing to perform the remedial surgery. Thus, it is clear from the allegations put forth in the claim that the claim fails to invoke the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.

Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion is granted and the claim is dismissed.

July 6, 2017

Hauppauge, New York

GINA M. LOPEZ-SUMMA

Judge of the Court of Claims