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AMERICAN LAWYER MEDIA NEWS SERVICE New York-A jury foreman who was injured when a table in the jury room collapsed on his knee cannot recover from New York state, a state Court of Claims judge has ruled. The claim is rooted in an incident on Jan. 30, 1997, when Orin Carrington was serving as a juror in a murder trial in Brooklyn. During a lunch break, he was seated at the head of the table when it suddenly collapsed. Court of Claims Judge Alan C. Marin, while critical of the conditions under which the jurors had to work, said there was simply insufficient evidence that the state was at fault. At the outset, he declined to recognize res ipsa loquitur in the case. Then, in applying basic negligence principles, he said there was no proof the state was aware or should have been aware that the table was broken and was being supported by chairs. “There is no question that the table collapsed on Carrington while he was doing his civic duty, and, in fact . . . he continued thereafter and completed his jury service,” Marin wrote. “That jurors should have to work under these conditions is, to say the least, highly inappropriate, but such does not necessarily mean that negligence on the part of the state was the proximate cause of Mr. Carrington’s mishap.” Carrington v. State, No. 98101. Carrington testified that he had not noticed that the table was supported by two legs at the far end, two legs in the middle and a couple of chairs at his end. The claimant did not know what caused the table to collapse. Carrington hoped to rely on res ipsa loquitur, which allows, but does not require, the trier of fact to infer negligence from the occurrence. He cited a 1992 case in New York’s intermediate Appellate Division where a chair collapsed at a wedding reception. Finocchio v. Crest Hollow Club at Woodbury Inc., 184 A.D.2d 49. The Court of Appeals, the state’s high court, said in Kambat v. St. Francis Hospital, 89 N.Y.2d 489 (1997), that a res ipsa charge is appropriate where the event does not normally occur absent negligence, where the event was within the exclusive control of the defendant and where there is no contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff. Here, Marin said, Carrington did not offer any evidence as to whether the state, county or city was ultimately responsible for maintaining the jury room. Consequently, he could not establish that the defendant had exclusive control. Beyond res ipsa loquitur, Marin said, the claim must be dismissed because there was “no evidence that any person whose knowledge could be imputed to the state observed the condition or should have observed it.”

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