New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
SPIRLES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-029-088, Claim No. 128247

Synopsis

After a video trial, the court found defendant liable for wrongfully confining pro se claimant at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for six days past her modified release date. Claimant awarded enhanced damages of $30.00 per day.

Case information

UID: 2018-029-088
Claimant(s): MICHELLE SPIRLES
Claimant short name: SPIRLES
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) : The caption has been amended to reflect the only properly named defendant.
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 128247
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney: MICHELLE SPIRLES, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney: BARBARA D. UNDERWOOD, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: Matthew H. Feinberg, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 13, 2018
City: White Plains
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

A video trial of the pro se claim for wrongful confinement was held on August 22, 2018. The claim alleges eight days of wrongful confinement at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility ("Bedford"). Claimant testified on her own behalf and the court admitted three exhibits. The State did not present witnesses or introduce exhibits.

Claimant testified that on May 4, 2016, a correction officer at Bedford wrote her a ticket for two Tier II violations for possessions of contraband, which she described as a picture of her deceased fiancé. After a disciplinary hearing, claimant was found guilty and sentenced to keeplock confinement from May 11 to 26, 2016. Claimant appealed and her sentence was modified to a new release date of May 17, 2016. Claimant was not released from keeplock until May 24, 2016. She claims that the disciplinary conviction caused her to lose her job at Bedford and honor floor status, and resulted in financial hardship.

The ticket (Exh. 1) describes the contraband as an "i.d." for Davis Richard Greg from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Superintendent's disposition modifying the sentence is dated May 16, 2016 (Exh. 2). A memorandum to claimant from the Superintendent dated May 23, 2016, refers to her conviction and keeplock sentence of "6 days" (Exh. 3).

Claimant rested and defendant moved to dismiss the claim. The court reserved on the motion. Defendant did not present a case.

To prove the tort of wrongful confinement, a claimant must establish that "the defendant intended to confine him, (2) the [claimant] was conscious of the confinement, (3) the [claimant] did not consent to the confinement and (4) the confinement was not otherwise privileged . . ." (Broughton v State of New York, 37 NY2d 451, 456 [1975], cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 [1975]). Here, claimant established that defendant intended to confine her, she was conscious of the confinement, she did not consent to the confinement, and that she was confined to keeplock for six days after her modified release date of May 17, 2016. Defendant did not submit any evidence disputing this fact, or establishing that the continued confinement was "otherwise privileged."

Claimant has met her burden to show prima facie that she was wrongfully confined from May 17 to 23, 2016. "Where a finding of misbehavior is reversed after an administrative appeal or Article 78 proceeding, and there is no other regulatory authority to hold an inmate in restrictive confinement, discretionary conduct is not involved and continued confinement is not privileged" (Porter v State of New York, UID No. 2017-018-816 [Ct Cl, Fitzpatrick, J., May 4, 2017] [granting summary judgment for confinement after reversal by administrative appeal]). The burden is on defendant to come forward with the reason for the delay (see Minieri v State of New York, 204 AD2d 982 [4th Dept 1994]; see also Ruggiero v State of New York, UID No. 2010-015-187 [Ct Cl, Collins, J., Nov. 1, 2010]).(2) In spite of defendant's complete failure of lack of effort to meet this burden, defendant moved to dismiss the claim after claimant rested her case. That motion is denied.

Accordingly, defendant is liable for the claim of wrongful confinement for a period of six days. In view of the specific facts present in this matter, the court is awarding enhanced damages of $30.00 per day for a total of $180.00. To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a (2). The Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment accordingly.

September 13, 2018

White Plains, New York

STEPHEN J. MIGNANO

Judge of the Court of Claims


2. Claimant's sentence was modified, not reversed, but the principle is equally controlling.