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$90,000 Awarded for Broken Hand During NY Prison Job Assignment

by David M. Reutter

While a prisoner at New York?s Bayview Correctional Facility, Jeanette Perez was required to assist moving a full garbage dumpster as part of her work detail. When trying to move that dumpster on July 2, 1999, Perez and another female prisoner, both of whom were only about 5 feet tall, had to move the dumpster 150 feet.

The dumpster, which was 40 inches wide, 70 inches long, and 4 feet deep, had to be moved down an alley that provided only about 2.5 to 3 inches clearance on either side. It had not steering mechanism or brakes. Perez said she could not see over the dumpster as she instructed her fellow prisoner. While trying to straighten the veering dumpster, Perez?s hand was caught between it and a protruding pole that further reduced the clearance on that side.

Perez testified she momentarily blacked out from the pain. Her hand was bleeding, swollen, and black and blue. After brief treatment at the prison infirmary, Perez was taken to Saint Vincent?s Hospital. It was determined she had sustained a fracture to her middle finger.

At a bifurcated trial in August 2005, the White Plains Court of Claims found the state was 100% liable for Perez?s injury. She had not received any training and expressed her concerns about the difficulty of keeping the dumpster wheels straight to two guards. Perez?s accident reconstruction expert testified the sidewalk expansion joints should have been filled with concrete. Additionally, the sidewalk?s grade made the dumpster?s speed increase. The entire procedure to move the dumpster was dangerous, and he opined that Perez could not have done anything to control it.

According to Perez?s medical expert, she has sustained moderate functional loss of her right hand, which is permanent. She is unable to bring her fingers down to her palm. Doing ordinary household chores causes Perez pain, and she is unable to open jars or type with her right hand. Heavy activity causes shooting pain up her wrist, swelling, and discoloration on the top of her hand. Utilizing standards set forth in New York State Workers Compensation guidelines, Dr. Gary Bromley assigned a loss of use of 25 percent of Perez?s hand.

The Court found $90,000 to be reasonable compensation for Perez?s past pain and suffering related to her injury, limited mobility, and the scar on her hand. See: Perez v. State of New York, Court of Claims, White Plains, Claim No: 104161-A.

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Related legal case

Perez v. State of New York