THE ASSAULT AND BATTERY OF CLAIMANT-INMATE BY CORRECTIONS OFFICERS OCCURRED WITHIN THE SCOPE OF THE OFFICERS’ EMPLOYMENT AND WAS REASONABLY FORESEEABLE; THEREFORE THE STATE, AS THE OFFICERS’ EMPLOYER, COULD BE LIABLE FOR THE ASSAULT AND BATTERY UNDER THE DOCTRINE OF RESPONDEAT SUPERIOR (THIRD DEPT).
The Third Department, reversing the Court of Claims, determined the alleged assault and battery by corrections officers occurred within the scope of the officers’ employment at the correctional facility and was reasonably foreseeable. Therefore the state could be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The Court of Claims had held the assault was conduct outside the scope of the officers’ employment and the state therefore was not liable:
… [W]hile it is our view that the correction officers’ use of force was excessive, the ensuing investigations of the incident effectively condoned the conduct of the correction officers and tacitly found them to be engaged in actions that were within the scope of employment … . To this end, it was claimant that was found guilty of misbehavior for assaulting prison staff, and prison officials determined that the use of force was “consistent with Departmental Rules[,] and [that] the injuries received, both by staff and the involved [incarcerated individual] are accounted for.” This evidence reflects that prison officials determined that the conduct of the correction officers was appropriate under the circumstances and fell within the scope of employment. Finally, in light of claimant’s … report accusing Poupore [one of the corrections officers involved] of inappropriate contact with claimant, which preceded the incident, and Poupore’s knowledge of same, it was clearly foreseeable that a tense encounter could result during further interactions between Poupore and claimant in the context of normal employment-related activities in the prison … . Altogether, we find that the foregoing establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the assault occurred within the scope of the correction officers’ employment as a reasonably foreseeable consequence of an employment-related activity and that the verdict in this case must be reversed on the facts and the law. Galloway v State of New York, 2023 NY Slip Op 00137, Third Dept 1-12-23
Practice Point: The assault and battery of claimant-inmate was deemed to be within the scope of the corrections officers’ employment and foreseeable. Therefore the state, as the officers’ employer, could be liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior.