The Second Department, reversing the Court of Claims. determined the state’s motion for summary judgment in this inmate-on-inmate assault case should have been granted. The complaint alleged the assault occurred because of the state’s negligent supervision of the inmates in a block yard:
“Having assumed physical custody of inmates, who cannot protect and defend themselves in the same way as those at liberty can, the State owes a duty of care to safeguard inmates, even from attacks by fellow inmates” … . “That duty does not, however, render the State an insurer of inmate safety,” and negligence cannot be established by the “mere occurrence of an inmate assault” … . Rather, the scope of the State’s duty is “limited to providing reasonable care to protect inmates from risks of harm that are reasonably foreseeable, i.e., those that [the State] knew or should have known” …. .
Here, in support of its motion, the State established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing the claim by demonstrating that the alleged assault upon the claimant was not reasonably foreseeable. The State’s submissions demonstrated that the claimant did not know his assailant, who unexpectedly engaged in a “surprise attack” against the claimant. Further, the State proffered evidence that it undertook security measures, including requiring every inmate entering the B Block yard to “go through a [m]agnetometer,” as well as subjecting inmates to random “pat frisks” and searches. Contrary to the determination of the Court of Claims, the State’s failure to employ the use of a particular magnetometer did not present a triable issue of fact … . Armwood v State of New York, 2023 NY Slip Op 04465, Second Dept 8-30-23
Practice Point: Here the state demonstrated it took adequate steps to prevent inmates from bringing weapons into the block yard and the attack on claimant with a scalpel was not reasonably foreseeable. The state’s motion for summary judgment in this inmate-on-inmate assault case should have been granted.