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Failure to Protect New York Prisoner Nets $12,500 Award

Failure to Protect New York Prisoner Nets $12,500 Award

by David Reutter

A New York Court of Claims awarded $12,500 to a prisoner based on his complaint that guards were negligent in failing to ensure his safety. However, the Court dismissed the prisoner’s medical malpractice claim stemming from the treatment of his injuries.

State prisoner Daniel Williams was being transported on January 4, 2008 with other prisoners from Attica Correctional Facility to Southport Correctional Facility. En route, a stop was made at Wendy Correctional Facility. Williams and the other prisoners were placed in a holding pen.

According to Williams, prior to leaving Attica he was involved in a confrontation with some of the prisoners with whom he was transported, and guards were aware of that incident. While sitting in the holding pen, a prisoner attacked Williams with a “razor type weapon” and he received a 4-inch cut above his right ear and a 2-inch laceration on the face in the area of the temple.

As he was being treated for his injuries, a guard told the nurse that Williams had to leave with the other prisoners to finish the transport to Southport. As a result, he was transported “with an open head wound” rather than a suture, which he claimed was the proper medical treatment.

The Court of Claims dismissed Williams’ medical malpractice claim based upon the scope of treatment he received at Wendy Correctional Facility because Williams, who was proceeding pro se, failed to meet the required proof of presenting expert testimony that the treatment was a departure from good and accepted medical practices.

As to his claim that the state failed to prevent an assault that was avoidable with proper supervision, the Court of Claims found the state liable. It held the evidence was unrefuted that the transport guards were aware of Williams’ verbal dispute with other Attica prisoners before they were placed in the holding pen without supervision or a guard being present. The Court wrote that “the state knew or [was] shown that there was a risk of harm to [Williams] which was both reasonably foreseeable and inadequately addressed.”

Accordingly, the Court awarded Williams $12,500 in damages plus recovery of his filing fee. See: Williams v. New York, New York Court of Claims, UID No. 2013-050-057, Claim No. 114956.

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Related legal case

Williams v. New York