Claimant's motion for summary judgment is denied where claimant's conclusory supporting affidavit simply echoes allegations of claim and thus fails to satisfy claimant's initial burden to show entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.
|Claimant short name:||GREEN|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||FRANK P. MILANO|
|Claimant's attorney:||SHAWN GREEN
|Defendant's attorney:||HON. LETITIA JAMES
New York State Attorney General
By: Shadi Masri, Esq.
Assistant Attorney General
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||September 3, 2020|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
Claimant, at all relevant times an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility, moves for summary judgment on his amended claim which requests damages for wrongful confinement, assault and battery, negligence, conversion and prima facie tort. Defendant opposes the claimant's motion.
"A motion for summary judgment should be entertained only after the moving party has established, by competent admissible evidence, that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If the movant meets this initial burden, the opposing party is required to submit evidence which raises a material issue of fact to preclude an award of summary judgment" (Ware v Baxter Health Care Corp., 25 AD3d 863, 864 [3d Dept 2006]; Svoboda v Our Lady of Lourdes Mem. Hosp., Inc., 31 AD3d 877 [3d Dept 2006]).
Claimant's affidavit in support of his summary judgment motion merely reiterates the conclusory allegations of the claim, with the exception of stating that the disciplinary determination resulting from claimant's November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing was reversed on December 19, 2018 (apparently, after submission of the amended claim). The November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing involved charges against claimant of "creating a disturbance (104.13) and refusing direct order (106.10)" on November 9, 2018. In opposition to the claimant's motion, defendant aptly points out that "claimant's moving papers contain nothing more than allegations that are completely unsupported by any admissible evidence"
The Court, after careful review, finds that claimant's proof supporting his motion is essentially a repetition of the allegations of the amended claim with the exception of noting the reversal of the disciplinary determination that resulted from claimant's November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing.
Consequently, claimant has failed to meet his initial burden to establish by competent admissible evidence that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on any of his causes of action, with the possible exception for his wrongful confinement cause of action based upon his November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing.
To initially establish that he was wrongfully confined, as a matter of law, claimant must satisfy, through admissible evidence, the following elements "(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 , cert denied sub nom. Schanbarger v Kellogg, 423 US 929 ; Krzyzak v Schaefer, 52 AD3d 979 [3d Dept 2008]).
The element most often contested in a prison disciplinary wrongful confinement claim is whether claimant can show that the confinement was not "otherwise privileged" (Broughton, 37 NY2d at 456).
In the context of confinement pursuant to a prison disciplinary proceeding, such confinement is "privileged to the extent that it was under color of law or regulation, specifically in accordance with [inmate misbehavior] regulations" (Gittens v State of New York, 132 Misc 2d 399, 402 [Ct Cl 1986]).
The reversal of the disciplinary determination resulting from claimant's November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing by the Director of the Special Housing/Inmate Disciplinary Program states only that the determination has been "REVIEWED AND REVERSED" without explanation as to the basis for the reversal.
Claimant has neither alleged nor provided admissible evidence that defendant violated any rule or regulation in conducting the November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing. In his supporting affidavit, claimant simply argues that his "culpability to commit act of misconduct November 9 was never proven" and that the correction officers involved in the hearing process engaged in "abuse of authority with their tyranuous [sic] acts as well as arbitrary and capricious accusations."
Claimant has failed to allege that defendant violated any particular hearing rule or regulation and thus failed to satisfy his initial burden to show his disciplinary confinement was not "otherwise privileged" (Broughton, 37 NY2d at 456).
Even had the claimant satisfied his initial burden as to whether he was wrongfully confined a result of the November 14, 2018 disciplinary hearing, a triable issue of fact exists as to whether defendant is absolutely immune from liability for claimant's purported wrongful confinement, as set forth in its "FOURTEENTH DEFENSE."
The law is well-settled that where employees of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, in commencing and conducting formal inmate disciplinary proceedings, "act under the authority of and in full compliance with the governing statutes and regulations . . . their actions constitute discretionary conduct of a quasi-judicial nature for which the State has absolute immunity" (Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212, 214 ; Varela v State of New York, 283 AD2d 841 [3d Dept 2001]). This immunity attaches even if the conviction is later reversed administratively or as the result of a successful CPLR Article 78 proceeding (see Arteaga, 72 NY2d at 215).
If, however, prison officials fail to comply with a rule or regulation governing such disciplinary hearings, absolute immunity may be lost and liability for money damages may be imposed if it is proven that the regulatory violation caused actual prejudice or injury to the inmate (see Davidson v State of New York, 66 AD3d 1089, 1089 [3d Dept 2009]; Vasquez v State of New York, 10 AD3d 825 [3d Dept 2004]).
As set forth above, neither the amended claim nor the claimant's affidavit in support of his summary judgment motion provide admissible evidence showing that defendant failed to follow its own rules and regulations in conducting the disciplinary hearing. Further, claimant's motion papers fail to include competent admissible proof to establish that any alleged violation of the hearing rules and regulations caused claimant prejudice or that, absent a rule violation, claimant would not have been found guilty at the disciplinary hearing.
In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that claimant failed to satisfy his initial burden to show, as a matter of law, that defendant violated a disciplinary hearing rule or regulation or that any such violation caused actual prejudice to claimant that would have otherwise "changed the outcome of the hearing" (Watson v State of New York, 125 AD3d 1064, 1065 [3d Dept 2015]).
Claimant's motion for partial summary judgment is denied.
September 3, 2020
Albany, New York
FRANK P. MILANO
Judge of the Court of Claims
1. Claimant's Motion For Partial Summary Judgment, filed February 14, 2020;
2. Affidavit of Shawn Green, sworn to January 23, 2020, and attached exhibits;
3. Affirmation in Opposition of Shadi Masri, dated July 30, 2020;
4. Unsworn Reply/Letter of Shawn Green, dated August 11, 2020.