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New York Prisoner Awarded $4,250 for Knee Injury While Shackled

On March 19, 2007, a court of claims in Rochester, New York, award $4,250 to a state prisoner who fell and injured his knee while walking to a transport van in leg shackles.

State prisoner Earl Martin, 54, fell on the ground as he attempted to step down from a curb while he was being escorted to a New York Department of Corrections (NYDOC) transport van. Martin was leaving a local hospital where he was receiving cancer treatment and was wearing leg shackles and a ?black box?, a device that limited the movement of his arms and hands.

Martin claimed that when he fell the two guards escorting him were walking at least 6 feet behind him, too far to assist him when he began to fall. Martin claimed that on at least 50 previous occasions when he was taken to the hospital for treatment that his guard escorts assisted him as he walked to the van.

After he fell Martin was taken back to the Wende Correctional Facility where he was imprisoned?rather than back into the medical center as he had requested. At the prison Martin saw a nurse who wrapped his knee, gave him some ibuprofen, and sent back to his cell as it was the beginning of the weekend. On Monday Martin saw a doctor who ordered x-rays and determined that Martin had a fractured right patella. Martin was transported to the hospital by ambulance where he was placed in a long leg cast.

Martin sued the NYDOC, pro se, claiming the guards should have helped him on his way to the van and that they should have been aware of his recent hip surgery. Martin also contended that the prison nurse should have contacted a doctor after examining him rather than merely sending him back to his cell.

Martin contended that it was 12 or 13 weeks before he could get back to relatively normal activity and that he still has to use a cane to get around. Martin also underwent physical therapy after the cast was removed.

Judge Philip J. Patti held that without expert medical testimony Martin?s claims of medical negligence were merely speculative and therefore dismissed those claims. However, Judge Patti did find that the guards escorting Martin should have assisted him as he walked to the van. Patti consequently held the state liable for the injuries proximately caused by Martin?s fall and awarded him $4,250 in damages for past and future pain and suffering. See: Martin v. The State of New York, Rochester Court of Claims, Case No. 105026.

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Related legal case

Martin v. The State of New York