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$290,000 Award for New York Prisoner’s Slip and Fall on Ice

On December 4, 2007, a New York Court of Claims awarded a former prisoner $290,000 for injuries he received when he slipped and fell on ice at a New York state prison.
In January 2001, Gene Sullivan was incarcerated at Arthur Kill Correctional Facility in Richmond County, New York. He was walking from his job at the prison’s infirmary to eat breakfast at the dining hall when he lost traction and began to slide along the outdoor walkway, which was lightly dusted with snow on top of invisible ice. The walkway had not been salted or sanded even though the temperatures had caused thaw/freeze cycles.

Although Sullivan had previously traversed the walkway without incident several times that morning, he was injured when he slid off the end of the walkway and his left foot sank into a hole, which caused him to fall and fracture both sides of the left malleolus, the ankle’s bony protrusion.

Sullivan underwent open reduction and internal fixation using a metal plate and screws followed by six days of hospitalization, eight weeks in the prison’s infirmary and five months of thrice-weekly physical therapy. He later experienced spontaneous swelling. He continues to have occasional pain and discomfort, a permanent limp, and reduced range of motion that requires him to walk with a cane. This prevents him from participating in sports, formerly one of his favorite activities.

The court awarded $15,000 for surgery to remove the screws and plate, which were no longer needed and caused irritation; $125,000 for past pain and suffering; and $150,000 for future pain and suffering. The judge reduced the total award to $193,333 by assigning 1/3 of the liability to Sullivan because he believed Sullivan had been hurrying along the walkway, trying to make it to the dining hall before it closed.

Sullivan was represented by attorney Paul J. Campson of White Plains, New York. A previous trial had established the state’s liability for negligence for failing to properly maintain the walkway in freezing and thawing conditions, which had caused ice to form. See: Sullivan v. State of New York, New York Court of Claims, Binghamton, Case No. 104667.

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Related legal case

Sullivan v. State of New York