New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
RODRIGUEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-059-011, Claim No. 130084


Case information

UID: 2019-059-011
Claimant short name: RODRIGUEZ
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 130084
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Claimant's attorney: PEDRO RODRIGUEZ, pro se
By: Christina Calabrese, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: September 11, 2019
City: Central Islip
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)



The claimant Pedro Rodriguez ("Claimant" or "Rodriguez") filed a pro se verified claim on August 4, 2017 alleging medical malpractice and negligence for the defendant's ("Defendant" or "State") failure to issue medically prescribed boots for his chronic knee pain in accordance with the Coxsackie Correctional Facility Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee's response to his grievance ("IGRC Decision") which was provided to Claimant on September 16, 2016. The claim alleged that the IGRC Decision determined that there had been "an unreasonable delay in the issuance of his medically prescribed boots and, as such, this issue should be addressed promptly." A trial of this claim was conducted by the undersigned via video conference in Albany, New York on July 31, 2019.

Rodriguez testified that he was transferred to the Green Haven Correction Facility on September 16, 2016. Claimant's testimony and trial Exhibit 3 (a determination of a further grievance by the Central Office Review Committee dated April 4, 2018) indicated that the boots were issued to him at Green Haven Correctional Facility on November 27, 2017, almost fourteen months after the IGRC Decision.

The State's trial witness, Lisa Mazza, RN, the nurse administrator at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility, testified that she was unfamiliar with Claimant and could not recall whether she might have examined or treated him. During her testimony she read from a document included in Defendant's Exhibit A (a health services system decision dated September 8, 2016) in which the regional medical director denied a request for Rodriguez to receive the boots. Notably, this document predated the IGRC Decision mandating issuance of the boots. The State offered no testimony disputing the IGRC Decision or that the boots were not issued until fourteen months later.

"It is fundamental law that the State has a duty to provide reasonable and adequate medical care to the inmates of its prisons" (Garafolo v State of New York, 135 AD3d 1108 [3d Dept 2016], quoting Rivers v State of New York, 159 AD2d 788, 789 [3d Dept 1990], lv denied, 76 NY2d 701 [1990]). In determining whether such care was provided, there is a subtle distinction between medical negligence and medical malpractice (Livingston v State of New York, UID No. 2014-044-009 [Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., Oct. 14, 2014]). The Court of Appeals has recognized that although a medical provider "in a general sense is always furnishing medical care to patients . . . not every act of negligence toward a patient would be medical malpractice" (Bleiler v Bodnar, 65 NY2d 65, 73 [1985]). "The distinction between ordinary negligence and malpractice turns on whether the acts or omissions complained of involve a matter of medical science or art requiring special skills not ordinarily possessed by lay persons or whether the conduct complained of can instead be assessed on the basis of the common everyday experience of the trier of the facts" (Fragosa v Haider, 17 AD3d 526, 527 [2d Dept 2005]; ([internal quotation marks and citations omitted]).

In order for a claimant to establish a claim for medical malpractice, he must establish, through expert medical opinion testimony, that a defendant deviated from an accepted standard of medical care (Wood v State of New York, 45 AD3d 1198 [3d Dept 2007]). Since Claimant presented no such testimony the portions of his claim which assert a claim for medical malpractice are dismissed. However, Rodriguez did established a case for negligence for the failure to provide him with the prescribed medical boots as required by the IGRC (Shepherd v State of New York, UID No. 2016-029-076 [Ct Cl, Mignano, J., Oct. 4, 2016]). He further described pain and suffering he experienced during the fourteen months he was deprived of the prescribed boots.

" 'An award for pain and suffering is inherently a subjective inquiry, not subject to precise quantification, and generally presents a question of fact' " (Johnson v State of New York, UID No. 2014-044-002 [Ct Cl, Schaewe, J., Jan. 13, 2014] [citations omitted]). "The reasonableness of compensation must be measured against relevant precedent of comparable cases" (Garcia v CPS 1 Realty, LP, 164 AD3d 656, 658 [2d Dept 2018] [internal quotation marks and citations omitted]). "Although prior damage awards in cases involving similar injuries are not binding upon the courts, they guide and enlighten them with respect to determining whether a verdict in a given case constitutes reasonable compensation" Id.

A prior trial for the failure of a corrections facility to issue prescribed medical boots for five months resulted in a damages award of $350.00 or $70.00 per month (Shepherd v State of New York, UID No. 2012-030-016 [Ct Cl, Scuccimarra, J., May, 8 2012]). Thus, in accordance with the foregoing, Claimant is awarded $70 per month for a total of $980.00 for fourteen months for Defendant's failure to provide medical boots to Claimant. To the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a(2). All objections and motions not previously ruled upon are denied.


September 11, 2019

Central Islip, New York


Judge of the Court of Claims

September 11, 2019

Central Islip , New York


Judge of the Court of Claims