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NY Court Dismisses Prisoner’s Assault Claim, Voids $500,000 Jury Award

NY Court Dismisses Prisoner's Assault Claim, Voids $500,000 Jury Award

On March 15, 2007, a New York Civil Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by Riker's Island prisoner George Craig, who alleged that the City was liable for injuries he suffered when he was attacked by another prisoner who was apparently in an area of the jail he was not supposed to be in.

Following a jury trial, Craig was awarded $500,000 for past pain and suffering. The jury found that the City of New York was 70% liable for Craig's injuries and the attacker was 30% liable. At the close of trial Craig moved for a directed verdict and the City renewed its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

The Court granted the City's motion and dismissed Craig's motion in its entirety. According to the Court, although municipalities have a duty to protect prisoners from harm, that duty is limited to those risks of harm which are reasonably foreseeable. In the instant case the Court held that Craig failed to prove the attack was foreseeable and that jail officials knew or should have known he was in danger.

In reaching this decision the Court noted that Craig failed to call any witnesses from the City Department of Corrections, including guards on duty at the time of the attack or officials who could have testified about jail policies and procedures in effect at the time. Likewise, Craig failed to present any documentation as to what policies or procedures existed for such circumstances and how they may have been violated.

As to how the other prisoner reached Craig's area of the jail and may have moved through several security check points, Craig presented only his own opinions. This apparently carried little weight with the Court, since Craig himself testified that he had no training or knowledge of DOC procedures. Finally, the Court held that Craig presented no credible evidence that anything jail officials did or did not do was the proximate cause of the injuries he suffered as a result of the attack. The jury award was vacated.

See: Craig v. City of New York, Civil Court of the City of New York, Bronx County, 15 Misc.3d 1124(A), 841 N.Y.S.2d 218 (Table), 2007 WL 1185654 (N.Y. City Civ.Ct.), 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 50829(U) (unreported).

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Related legal case

Craig v. City of New York