New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
HERNANDEZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2020-015-051, Claim No. 133208, Motion No. M-95246

Synopsis

Claimant's motion for summary judgment on his claim alleging negligent supervision by prison staff was denied.

Case information

UID: 2020-015-051
Claimant(s): EDISON HERNANDEZ
Claimant short name: HERNANDEZ
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 133208
Motion number(s): M-95246
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant's attorney: Edison Hernandez, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Honorable Letitia James, Attorney General
By: Belinda A. Wagner, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: May 6, 2020
City: Saratoga Springs
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant, an inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) proceeding pro se, moves for summary judgment in his favor pursuant to CPLR 3212.

The claim asserts a cause of action for negligent supervision arising from injuries allegedly inflicted by a fellow inmate, identified as Inmate Jones, at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Great Meadow) on February 26, 2019. Claimant contends that he was previously attacked by Inmate Jones at Collins Correctional Facility on November 16, 2018 and DOCCS therefore knew or should have known of the need to protect him from this inmate. In addition to the pleadings, claimant supports the motion with a copy of the misbehavior reports and unusual incident reports for both incidents. The reports indicate that 13 inmates including the claimant and Inmate Jones were involved in the 2018 incident. Claimant states that upon his arrival at Great Meadow in 2019, approximately three weeks prior to the incident, he informed personnel there that "[m]y only enemies are the ones documented from my incident in Clinton last year . . ." to which a sergeant responded, "In that case, you have no enemies here then, and I'm clearing you for release to the general population" (claimant's affidavit, 8).

A party moving for summary judgment "bears the heavy burden of establishing 'a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, tendering sufficient evidence to demonstrate the absence of any material issues of fact' " (Deleon v New York City Sanitation Dept., 25 NY3d 1102, 1106 [2015], quoting Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324 [1986]; see also Jacobsen v New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 22 NY3d 824 [2014]; Vega v Restani Constr. Corp., 18 NY3d 499, 503 [2012]; see also CPLR 3212 [b]). Only where the movant has made this showing does the burden shift to the opposing party "to produce evidentiary proof in admissible form sufficient to establish the existence of material issues of fact which require a trial of the action" (Alvarez, 68 NY2d at 324 ).

It is well settled that "[h]aving assumed physical custody of inmates, who cannot protect and defend themselves in the same way as those at liberty can, the State owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, even from attacks by fellow inmates" (Sanchez v State of New York, 99 NY2d 247, 252 [2002]; see also Flaherty v State of New York, 296 NY 342 [1947]). This duty does not require "unremitting surveillance in all circumstances," nor does it cast the State in the role of an insurer of inmate safety (Sanchez, 99 NY2d at 256). Rather, "defendant's duty is limited to providing reasonable care to protect inmates from risks of harm that are reasonably foreseeable, i.e., those that defendant knew or should have known" (Vasquez v State of New York, 68 AD3d 1275, 1276 [3d Dept 2009]; see also Dickson v County of Putnam, 171 AD3d 1131 [2d Dept 2019]; Wassmann v County of Ulster, 144 AD3d 1470 [3d Dept 2016]; Anderson v State of New York, 125 AD3d 1273 [4th Dept 2015]; Di Donato v State of New York, 25 AD3d 944 [3d Dept 2006]). "The mere occurrence of an inmate assault, without credible evidence that the assault was reasonably foreseeable, cannot establish the negligence of the State" (Sanchez, 99 NY2d at 256; Williams v State of New York, 125 AD3d 1472, 1472 [4th Dept 2015], lv denied 25 NY3d 907 [2015]; Melvin v State of New York, 101 AD3d 1654 [4th Dept 2012]).

Here, claimant failed to establish that the assault upon him was reasonably foreseeable. Contrary to claimant's contention it cannot be concluded that, merely because claimant's assailant was one of the other 12 inmates involved in the prior altercation at Clinton Correctional Facility, DOCCS knew or should have known of a danger he would be assaulted at Great Meadow. Claimant failed to demonstrate the circumstances of the first assault, that a future assault was imminent or the steps that DOCCS should have taken to protect him. Thus, he failed to meet his burden of establishing his entitlement to summary judgment. Moreover, in opposition to the motion, defendant submits an affidavit of Lieutenant Darin Williams who states that during the 22 days claimant had been in Great Meadow Correctional Facility, he never voiced any specific complaints or concerns about Inmate Jones. Under the circumstance presented, summary judgment is inappropriate.

Accordingly, claimant's motion is denied.

May 6, 2020

Saratoga Springs, New York

FRANCIS T. COLLINS

Judge of the Court of Claims

Papers Considered:

1. Document titled "Claimant's Affidavit in Support of his Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to C.P.L.R. 3212"sworn to January 29, 2020, with Exhibits A-I;

2. Affirmation in Opposition dated March 2, 2020, with Exhibits 1, A and B.