New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
DELANEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-029-034, Claim No. 129720

Synopsis

After a video trial of pro se claim, the court found defendant liable for 88 days of wrongful confinement and awarded claimant damages of $40.00 per day, for a total amount of $3,520.00. Defendant's motion to dismiss the claim, made after claimant rested, was denied as to wrongful confinement and granted as to medical malpractice and constitutional violations.

Case information

UID: 2019-029-034
Claimant(s): CLARENCE DELANEY, JR.
Claimant short name: DELANEY
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 129720
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: STEPHEN J. MIGNANO
Claimant's attorney: CLARENCE DELANEY, JR., PRO SE
Defendant's attorney: LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: J. Gardner Ryan, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: May 22, 2019
City: White Plains
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

The pro se claim seeks damages for personal injuries resulting from wrongful confinement, medical malpractice, and violation of claimant's constitutional rights. The claim arose from the State's detention of claimant beyond the ten day maximum permitted by CPL 410.91 (1) for a sentence executed as a sentence for parole supervision, and the State's failure to provide claimant with a CPAP machine prescribed to treat his sleep apnea. A video trial was held on April 18, 2019, with claimant appearing at Downstate Correctional Facility ("Downstate"), and the court presiding at the courthouse in White Plains, New York.

Claimant testified on his own behalf and the court admitted ten claimant exhibits.(1) No other witnesses appeared for claimant, and defendant rested its case without presenting any witnesses or exhibits. At the close of claimant's case, defendant made a motion to dismiss the claim. After defendant rested, it made a motion to dismiss the cause of action for medical malpractice. Claimant opposed and the court reserved on both motions.

Claimant testified that on January 6, 2017, the Albany County Court sentenced him to a two to four year term of imprisonment to be executed as a sentence of parole supervision pursuant to CPL 410.91, to begin after being processed through reception at Downstate then spending 90 days at the Willard Drug Treatment Center ("Willard"). CPL 410.91 required that claimant be delivered to a reception center run by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") for no more than ten days, then be placed in drug treatment for 90 days as a condition of parole. Claimant testified that the sentence also provided he was to be sent to Willard within 30 days of the judgment. The post-sentencing classification form reporting claimant's sentence, computed conditional release date, and other pertinent information, was incorrect in that it did not mention Willard or parole supervision, only the two to four year sentence of imprisonment. Claimant brought the error to the attention of staff at Downstate to no avail, then filed a grievance that was denied. He then filed for a writ of habeas corpus, but before he could serve the order to show cause on the Superintendent, he was transferred as a parolee to Marcy Correctional Facility ("Marcy"), then to Willard on March 9, 2017, after Marcy realized the error. He was released on May 11, 2017, after a court decision on his writ finding he was illegally detained because he had not been transferred to Willard within 30 days of the judgment.

Claimant also testified that he needed to use a CPAP machine due to sleep problems. Medical at Willard said it would be addressed but he did not receive the machine and filed a grievance. He has not received a CPAP machine.

On cross-examination claimant acknowledged that: the language in his commitment order (Exh. 2) about executing his sentence as one for parole supervision appears in the "Remarks" section, but the same language appears above that section to the right of an unchecked box.

Claimant's exhibits corroborate his testimony in all material respects. In a May 5, 2017 Decision and Judgment on claimant's petition for writ of habeas corpus (Exh. 1), the Seneca County Supreme Court (Bender, J.) ordered claimant's release from Willard within ten days, finding that claimant's detention was "illegal in that he was not transferred to Willard within thirty days of his judicial sentence" (Exh. 1 [5/5/2017 Decision and Judgment, Seneca County Supreme Court]). Justice Bender based his decision on defendant's response to the writ certifying that: "[T]he Petitioner was judicially sentenced in Albany County on January 12, 2017 to complete the Willard Program. The Petitioner was received at a DOCCS correctional facility on February 20, 2017 and was transferred to the Willard Drug Treatment Center on March 9, 2017" (id.).

Claimant's Uniform Sentence and Commitment Order (Connolly, J., Albany County), prepared on January 12, 2017, provides that claimant was sentenced on January 6, 2012 to two to four years "as a predicate non-violent felony offender/sentence of parole supervision pursuant to CPL 410.91" (Exh. 2). This language appears in the "Remarks" section at the bottom of the page. It constitutes that court's sentencing order regardless that above on the page, in a separate section, no check mark was placed in the box appearing next to the words "Execute as a sentence of parole supervision (CPL 410.91)." Nevertheless, claimant's subsequent "classification" form (Exh. 3) incorrectly provides that claimant's sentence was two to four years; and his conditional release date was January 28, 2019, without any reference to his sentence of parole supervision.

Unquestionably, claimant brought the mistake to the attention of personnel at Downstate (see Exh. 4 [2/8/17 letter] and Exh. 6 [2/19/17 grievance]), to no avail (see Exh. 5 [2/10/17 e-mails] and Exh. 7 [3/21/17 grievance denial]). The Downstate Superintendent signed claimant's grievance denial on March 21, 2017. Weeks before this, claimant was transferred to Marcy. Marcy had decided claimant's grievance at that facility by acknowledging there was a mistake in claimant's classification (see Exh. 10), and claimant was sent to Willard on March 9, 2017 (see Exh. 2 [5/5/17 Decision and Judgment]).

The ambulatory health records and other documents claimant asserted prove he was entitled to, but never received, a CPAP machine (see Exh. 9). On March 15, 2017, a provider at Willard directed that a CPAP machine be ordered for claimant due to sleep problems. On March 16, 2017, "C-PAP Department, LLC" quoted $574.61 as the total cost for Willard's purchase of a CPAP machine and headgear for claimant. On March 28, 2017, a provider at Willard noted that, "CPAP machine defered [sic] by RMD." Claimant did not submit evidence showing who at Willard decided to defer ordering the machine or the reason why, although cost was likely a factor.

In order to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement, a claimant must show "(1) 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. 423 US 929 [1975]).

Claimant testified and submitted evidence showing that defendant intended to confine him, claimant was conscious of the confinement, he did not consent, and for 92 days his confinement was not privileged. DOCCS was conclusively bound by the terms of the sentence and commitment order issued by the Albany County Court, which imposed a sentence of parole supervision pursuant to CPL 410.91, and ordered that claimant be sent to Willard within 30 days of the January 12, 2017 judgment (see Matter of Murray v Goord, 1 NY3d 29, 32 [finding DOCCS' only option is to comply with the last order of commitment]; Greaves v State of New York, 35 Misc 3d 290, 293-294 [Ct Cl 2011] [finding claimant established prima facie that his confinement was not privileged where DOCCS relied on statute and not commitment order to calculate term of imprisonment]).

Claimant was not sent to Willard until March 9, 2017, 56 days after the judgment, in violation of the sentence and commitment order. This violation was the basis for Justice Bender's May 5, 2017 Decision and Judgment granting claimant's habeas petition. Justice Bender adjudged claimant's detention to be illegal because he had not been sent to Willard within 30 days as ordered by the Albany County Court. The court finds that claimant submitted prima facie evidence establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that every day of claimant's detention after February 11, 2017, the 30th day, constituted an illegal detention. Since claimant was not released until May 11, he was illegally detained for 88 days, from February 12 through May 10.

Defendant argued that the detention was privileged because DOCCS relied on the sentencing and commitment order as interpreted by DOCCS. The court disagrees. The Albany County Court stated plainly in the Remarks section of the commitment order that the sentence was to parole supervision under CPL 410.91. Claimant's evidence also established that beginning with a February 8, 2017 letter, claimant repeatedly brought the mistake to DOCCS' attention.

Claimant did not submit prima facie evidence establishing the remaining causes of action.

To establish a prima facie case of medical malpractice, a claimant must show, through a medical expert, that the defendant " 'breached the standard for good and acceptable care in the locality where the treatment occurred and that [the] breach was the proximate cause of [the] injury' " (Torns v Samaritan Hosp., 305 AD2d 965, 966 [3d Dept 2003], quoting Bracci v Hopper, 274 AD2d 865, 867 [3d Dept 2000]). Here, claimant did not present an expert opinion, or for that matter any evidence, showing why DOCCS deferred ordering the CPAP machine, and who made the decision. The mere fact that the order was deferred is patently insufficient.

To the extent the claim rests on an alleged violation of claimant's constitutional rights to due process, equal protection and against cruel and unusual punishment, it must be dismissed. The State is not a proper party in a 42 USC 1983 action, and a constitutional tort action under the relevant provisions of the state constitution is not necessary to assure their effectiveness because claimant has an adequate state tort remedy (see Brown v State of New York, 89 NY2d 172, 192 [1996]; Boggs v State of New York, 51 Misc 3d 376 [Ct Cl 2015]). The court finds that claimant is entitled to $40.00 for each day he was wrongfully confined (88 days), amounting to a total of $3,520.00.

Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss the claim based on claimant's failure to establish a prima facie case is denied as to the cause of action for wrongful confinement and otherwise granted; the causes of action for medical malpractice and constitutional violations are dismissed; defendant's post-trial motion to dismiss the cause of action for medical malpractice is denied as moot; and the court finds defendant liable for wrongful confinement and awards claimant damages in the amount of $40.00 per day for 88 days of unprivileged wrongful confinement for a total of $3,520.00. To the extent claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a(2). Any motions remaining outstanding are denied as moot. Let judgment be entered accordingly.

May 22, 2019

White Plains, New York

STEPHEN J. MIGNANO

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. On May 8, 2019, the court received a letter from claimant with a copy of his sentencing hearing transcript. Claimant did not submit the transcript as an exhibit at trial and the court has not considered it.