New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
ADAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2019-059-021, Claim No. 121987

Synopsis

Case information

UID: 2019-059-021
Claimant(s): GREGORY ADAMS
Claimant short name: ADAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 121987
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: MAUREEN T. LICCIONE
Claimant's attorney: GREGORY ADAMS, pro se
Defendant's attorney: HON. LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL
By: Dorothy M. Keogh, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: October 31, 2019
City: Central Islip
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Gregory Adams, an inmate proceeding pro se ("Claimant" or "Adams") brought a claim against the State of New York ("State" or "Defendant") alleging that he suffered serious injuries when he was caused to slip and fall as a result of a dangerous water condition which was allowed to exist in the shower area of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility ("Sing Sing") where he was incarcerated, and the failure to provide a proper escort. As the result of a bifurcated trial which was held on January 10, 2018, the State was found one-hundred percent responsible for Adams' slip and fall (Scuccimara, J., March 16, 2018). A trial on damages was held on September 24, 2019 at Sing Sing.

Judge Scuccimarra had found that Adams fell in a puddle of water while handcuffed and that his face "slammed" into the cement. He was placed in a neck brace, put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to Mount Vernon Hospital, where he was treated. He testified that he received no stitches and was given cold packs and ibuprofen. He was discharged and later seen by Sing Sing medical staff where he continued to be treated with ibuprofen. The Sing Sing Inpatient Discharge Instructions (Cl Exh 1) indicated injuries to his face and the Inmate Injury Report (Cl Exh 3) reported contusions and injuries to the left side of his face, mouth and his left eye. Adams' claim (Ct Cl Exh 1) alleged a swollen left eye, a laceration under the left eye, swelling and bruising of the left side of his face, lacerations inside his mouth, as well as neck and lower back pain and recurring headaches. Adams testified that he was dragged on the floor by a nurse after he fell, which resulted in scratches to his face, that his eye was swollen shut for "several months", and that the "gash" in his mouth was two and one half inches long. He stated that his back pain lasted for six to eight weeks and that the injury to his back exacerbated his pre-existing scoliosis. He asserted that he made sick call requests for additional medical attention from Sing Sing medical staff. The only permanent injury to which he testified was a scar over his right eyebrow, which the Court observed. The Court then permitted Claimant to amend his claim to conform with his testimony with respect to his right eye.

However, Claimant did not produce any medical records from Mount Vernon Hospital and the Sing Sing records submitted as evidence in Claimant's case refer to the left side of his face and left eye. In fact, Claimant seemed confused as to which eye area he was claiming was scarred. The Court observed no scar near the left eye. Further, there is no record or medical opinion indicating that the fall exacerbated Claimant's scoliosis condition.

Defendant produced certified copies of Claimant's medical records after the incident dated: September 19, 20 and 21, 2012; January 24 and 31, 2013; and February 7 and 19, 2013. None of these records referenced Adams' alleged injuries or his complaints about any ailments related to those injuries. The certification of these medical records (which is dated February 21, 2013) does not indicate that Adams' complete medical record was being certified, even as it may have existed up to that date. The State also produced an x-ray report which had a physician's signature date of August 11, 2012, but refered to an x-ray performed three weeks later on September 5, 2012. In any event, the x-ray revealed no fractures.

Claimant has not demonstrated by the preponderance of the credible evidence that the scar over his right eye was caused by the subject slip and fall. On the other hand, he has sufficiently demonstrated his other non-permanent injuries, including the lacerations, swelling, cuts as well as pain and suffering.

It is well established that in awarding damages for pain and suffering "the conclusion of the fact finder [is] entitled to 'considerable deference' " (Auer v State of New York, 289 AD2d 626, 629 [3d Dept 2001], quoting Levine v East Ramapo Cent. School Dist., 192 AD2d 1025, 1025-1026 [3d Dept 1993]). At the same time, an award may not stand where it "deviates materially from what would be reasonable compensation" (Rappold v Snorac, Inc., 289 AD2d 1044, 1047 [4th Dept 2001], lv dismissed 98 NY2d 671 [2002], lv denied 98 NY2d 614 [2002]; CPLR 5501[c]). Determining an award for pain and suffering "is inherently a subjective inquiry, not subject to precise quantification, and generally presents a question of fact for the [factfinder]" (Petrilli v Federated Dept. Stores, Inc., 40 AD3d 1339, 1343 [2007]; accord Upsher v State of New York, UID No. 2014-040-002 [Ct Cl, McCarthy, J., Jan. 31, 2014]). One proven method of assessing an award of damages for pain and suffering is by reviewing comparable cases (see Sumpter v State of New York, UID No. 2012-030-025 [Ct Cl, Scuccimarra, J., Aug. 30, 2012]; Pickell v State of New York, UID No. 2009-015-526 [Ct Cl, Collins, J., Nov. 19, 2009]; see also Albanese v Przybylowicz, 116 AD3d 1216, 1217 [3d Dept 2014]; Kahl v MHZ Operating Corp., 270 AD2d 623, 624 [3d Dept 2000] ["[b]ecause personal injury awards, especially those for pain and suffering, are not subject to precise quantification,. . . courts [] look to comparable cases to determine at what point an award 'deviates materially' from what is considered reasonable compensation"]; accord Huff v Rodriguez, 45 AD3d 1430, 1433 [4th Dept 2007]). "[F]actors to be considered in evaluating such awards include the nature, extent and permanency of the injuries, the extent of past, present and future pain and the long-term effects of the injury" (Nolan v Union Coll. Trust of Schenectady, N.Y., 51 AD3d 1253, 1256 [3d Dept 2008], lv denied 11 NY3d 705 [2008]; see Albanese v Przybylowicz, 116 AD3d at 1217).

Comparable cases in this court have awarded damages for pain and suffering and non-permanent cuts and bruises, even where there have been no stitches administered (see Manley v State of New York, UID No. 2009-030-008 [Ct Cl, Scuccimarra, J., March 30, 2009]; Crenshaw v State of New York, UID No. 2005-019-010 [Ct Cl, Lebous, J., May 23, 2005]; Tirado v State of New York, UID No. 2010-030-023 [Ct Cl Scuccimarra, J., July 19, 2010].

In view of the foregoing, the Court awards judgment to the Claimant in the amount of two thousand eight hundred ($2800.00) for his non-permanent injuries and past pain and suffering together with interest from March 16, 2018, the date of the Court's finding of liability on the part of the State. To the extent claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a(2).

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

October 31, 2019

Central Islip, New York

MAUREEN T. LICCIONE

Judge of the Court of Claims