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New York State Prisoner Awarded $30,000 for Work Related Injuries

On December 17, 2003, a state court of claims in White Plains, New York, awarded state prisoner Jose Santos $30,000 for injuries he sustained while working in the industrial-unit paint shop at the Fishkill Correctional Facility.

In his lawsuit, Santos alleged that on August 21, 1998, he injured his right wrist, elbow and shoulder while spray-painting a bed frame in the prison paint shop. The bed frame was hooked to an angle iron, a 7-foot-long hoisting device weighing 80 to 90 pounds. As Santos knelt on the ground painting the bed frame, the hook snapped, causing the angle iron and the bed frame to fall on him. Santos was treated in the prison infirmary and assigned to light duty.

Santos claimed that he suffered lingering elbow pain that had to be treated with analgesics. He further claimed that his elbow hurt when he used it and during damp weather.

Santos provided expert testimony from chiropractor Thomas Spiridellis to support his claim. Spiridellis opined that Santos' elbow pain was likely permanent, that his ability to perform daily tasks without pain was limited, and that Santos suffered a 50% range-of-motion loss in his wrist and reduced movement of his elbow-joint and shoulder.

Santos' expert engineer, Daniel S. Burdett, P.E., testified that because the angle iron was improperly designed and built, and because the state failed to adequately maintain it, the workplace was unsafe.

The state was prohibited from introducing any evidence regarding the angle iron's condition prior to the accident, or from introducing expert testimony to counter Santos' claims regarding the angle iron, because it destroyed the device prior to trial.

Accordingly, the court determined that the state had not taken reasonable measures to ensure a reasonably safe work environment. Santos was awarded a total of $30,000 for his personal injury ($20,000 for past pain and suffering, $10,000 for future pain and suffering) plus interest from the decision date. The court further held that pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a(2), Santos was entitled to recover his filing fee.

Santos was represented by Gary E. Divis and John D.B. Lewis, both of New York, New York. See: Santos v. State of New York, Court of Claims, White Plains, Case No. 102473.

Source: VerdictSearch, New York Reporter

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Related legal case

Santos v. State of New York