McBride v. State

Decision Date01 February 1967
Docket NumberNo. 43146,43146
Citation277 N.Y.S.2d 80,52 Misc.2d 880
PartiesFlorence McBRIDE, as Administratrix of the Estate of Charles J. McBride, Deceased, Claimant, v. The STATE of New York, Defendant. Claim
CourtNew York Court of Claims

Louis Stark, New York City, for claimant.

Louis J. Lefkowitz, Atty. Gen., by Wayne M. Davis, Asst. Atty. Gen., of counsel, for the State of New York.



Charles J. McBride, a fifteen-year-old boy, hung himself on October 23rd, 1962, from the rafter over his bed in the dormitory of a cottage on the grounds of the Warwick State Training School for Boys in Warwick, New York. The Warwick School was established by the New York State Department of Social Welfare in 1932 as part of its program to combat juvenile delinquency in order

'* * * to provide a healthy environment in which rebellious adolescents can grow in physical and emotional stature with the counsel of those who understand the fears and needs of youth.'

(State's Exhibit 0)

His mother, Florence McBride, as administratix of his estate, sues the State of New York, claiming damages of $500,000 based upon negligent, careless and wrongful acts of its agents, servants and employees in connection with the care and treatment of Charles while he was in the custody of the State at Warwick.

Notice of Intention to file the claim was received by the Clerk of the Court of Claims on January 22, 1963 and by the office of the Attorney General on January 23, 1963. The claim itself was timely filed in both offices on December 5, 1963 and has neither been assigned nor brought before any other Court or tribunal for determination.

During the trial, and after nine of claimant's witnesses and one State's witness had testified, claimant's counsel submitted Letters of Administration to the Court, which Letters had been granted by Surrogate Di Falco on January 18, 1963, but for which the decree was signed nunc pro tunc on April 15, 1966 as of January 22, 1963. The State objected to the admission of these Letters, challenging their validity, and asserting that this Court had no jurisdiction, since the Letters had not been perfected within the time limit for filing a claim set forth in Section 10, Subd. 2 of the Court of Claims Act. Oral argument and written briefs on this objection were submitted by both parties.

The Court, in a written memorandum on May 23, 1966 (50 Misc.2d 192, 270 N.Y.S.2d 237), overruled the State's objection and admitted the Letters into evidence. This decision was based upon the fact that the Surrogate had granted the petition for administration of the estate on January 22, 1963, at which time Mrs. McBride became empowered to act as administratrix, even though the decree itself was only submitted for signature on April 15, 1966, and was then signed by Surrogate Di Falco nunc pro tunc as of the earlier date.

The Court regards the signing as a ministerial act, correcting an irregularity in procedure, under Section 20, Subd. 6 of the Surrogate's Court Act, which lists among the Surrogate's Incidental Powers the right 'To open, vacate, modify, or set aside, or to enter as of a former time, a decree or order of his court; * * *'.

The Court, in its decision, cited Merrick v. Merrick, 266 N.Y. 120, 194 N.E. 55 and cases cited therein, in support of its position. Thereafter, the trial continued.

For a proper understanding of this claim and determination of its validity, it is essential to sketch some of the background and family life of the McBrides prior to the fateful act. Only for this reason, therefore, it is stated that Florence McBride, the mother of Charles, had been married and had given birth to two daughters by her husband, Sidney McBride, who left her prior to the birth of Charles. She entered into a liaison with another man and Charles was born as a result of this union. Charles' father joined the Navy and Mrs. McBride saw him only once after his return from service, when he took Charles to Houston, Texas. Mrs. McBride testified to having gone there and taken Charles home with her. Since that time she has not seen Charles' father.

Charles' mother separated from Mr. McBride in November of 1946 when pregnant with Charles. During 1950 she met another man who is stated to have been the father of her two other children who also lived in the McBride home and were younger than Charles.

After his return from Texas, Charles resided either in his mother's apartment or with his maternal grandmother. Mrs. McBride did not work and the family has been maintained by public assistance.

To complete the background of Charles' home life, it is essential to note that Mrs. McBride testified that, during Charles' early years, she had stabbed and killed a man with whom she had been living, and who had assaulted her in her kitchen while he was drunk. She was acquitted of the charge of manslaughter on her defense that he had beaten her and that she acted in self-protection. Charles was not present during this incident, but an older sister witnessed the slaying.

Mrs. McBride had some difficulties with her two older daughters, and threatened them with court action upon a number of occasions. She brought them to the police when, in October of 1957, they came home from a department store wearing new coats and carrying new umbrellas taken by them from the store. Charles was with them at the time, but she asserted that he was not involved in the theft. At about this same period, Charles became a truant from school, his 4th Grade report in 1958 showing absences of 50 1/2 days as against 20 1/2 days of attendance in the Spring term.

On New Year's Day in 1958, Charles, his two sisters, and two other children were brought into Children's Court on the charge of breaking into a toy shop and stealing three bicycles. Charles was placed on probation by the Children's Court as a first offender.

His mother testified that he ran away from home with his older sister two weeks later, and ran away again at other times. In each instance, the two children would stay away one or two nights, Mrs. McBride would report their absence to the police, and they would be picked up and brought home. Each time they returned Mrs. McBride stated that she would spank Charles and deny him privileges as punishment for having run away.

The Probation Officer's report to the Domestic Relations Court dated August 6, 1958 includes the following notations:

'On 6/2/58, Charles absconded from home.

On 6/26/58, Charles punched a teacher at P.S. 157, and broke away from the Principal who apprehended him.

On 7/20/58, Charles was apprehended by police at Coney Island after having stolen 600 tickets to a ride (the 'Whip').'

(portion of Exhibit 6 verbatim)

The Psychiatric Service Report prepared on August 12, 1958 by the psychiatrist and addressed to the Justice Presiding, states

'The material on the above named child was reviewed since being placed on probation. He has continued getting into difficulties and placement is indicated.

A review of previous examination, indicates that Charles is an emotionally disturbed child who is in need of placement in a residential treatment center.'

(from Exhibit 8)

Then, in July of 1958, Charles was placed in Youth House in The Bronx, for a time. The Juvenile Aid Bureau of the New York City Police Department, in an October 22nd, 1958 communication to the Bronx Children's Court lists the following:

'9/13/58 Attempted shoplifting of $59.87 worth of merchandise from Macy's Dept. Store.

9/21/58 Setting fires in trash cans at 34th St. & Bway BMT station.

9/22/58 Runaway from home since 9/18/58. Found wandering at 58th street and Bway at 1:00 AM.

10/5/58 Runaway since 10/2/58. Found at 2:00 AM at 205th St. station on IND 'D' line.'

(portion of Exhibit 7--C verbatim)

In October of 1958, Charles was accepted by Children's Village. The doctor's Psychiatric Intake Interview, part of the records of that institution, included in its evaluation the following remarks:

'The significant people in this boy's life are a mother who was socially delinquent and two older sisters who very early showed delinquent behavior. It seems incredible that anyone could suppose that a boy of eight would be completely oblivious of the events surrounding his mother's stabbing her lover, her arrest, trial, etc., especially since there were two older sisters, one of whom witnessed the stabbing.'

(portion of Exhibit K verbatim)

Charles' stay at Children's Village was marked by frequent evidences of maladjustment and behaviour problems, including the theft of a bottle of vitamin pills and a jar of burn ointment from the infirmary. Seeing other boys go home, and having been denied that privilege for breaking rules, he twice ran home from Children's Village and each time was returned there by his mother, Charles crying all the way back to Children's Village, according to her testimony. He remained at Children's Village for more than three years until, in March of 1962, the director petitioned the Bronx Children's Court for his transfer

'* * * on the grounds that he is a security risk and uncontainable in our program in that he requires constant day and night supervision on an individual basis above and beyond what our agency program allows for.'

He was then stated to be

'* * * a very immature boy with little controls of his impulses and no concern with respecting the rights and properties of other persons. His petty lying, stealing and disruptive behavior in school and the cottage have continued since his admission to the present time * * *

Because of the poor prognosis in prolonging Charles' stay, it was recently decided to discharge him home and to arrange for his admission to a special school where he would be in a more structured environment. Charles could not tolerate any delay in implementing this plan and reacted by acting out and involved other boys. He stole money, a radio and medical supplies, ran away, forced boys to become...

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6 cases
  • Wilson v. Sponable
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • May 27, 1981
    ...296 N.Y. 342, 346, 73 N.E.2d 543; see, also, Brown v. State of New York, 56 A.D.2d 672, 391 N.Y.S.2d 204, supra; McBride v. State of New York, 52 Misc.2d 880, 277 N.Y.S.2d 80, affd. 30 A.D.2d 1025, 294 N.Y.S.2d 265). The duty to protect a suicidal person from killing himself has been extend......
  • Jones v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • September 23, 1969 which decedent was riding fell into river). New York courts have also granted significant recoveries. See McBride v. State, 52 Misc.2d 880, 889, 277 N.Y.S.2d 80, 90 (Ct.Cl.1967) ($3,000 award; decedent's death from hanging was "almost immediate" and the period of pain "short"), aff'd mem......
  • Figueroa v. State
    • United States
    • Hawaii Supreme Court
    • December 31, 1979
    ...v. Allen, 36 A.D.2d 981, 321 N.Y.S.2d 179 (1971); Maricopa County v. Cowart, 106 Ariz. 69, 471 P.2d 265 (1970); McBride v. State, 52 Misc.2d 880, 277 N.Y.S.2d 80 (1967), Aff'd 30 A.D.2d 1025, 294 N.Y.S.2d 265 (1968). See Griffis v. Travelers Insurance Company, 273 So.2d 523 (La.1973); Thorn......
  • Falkenstein v. City of Bismarck
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • July 26, 1978
    ...of such a mental condition can be imposed, there must be a showing that the injury (the suicide) was foreseeable. McBride v. State, 52 Misc.2d 880, 277 N.Y.S.2d 80 (C.C.1967). See, also, Annot.: Civil Liability of Prison or Jail Authorities for Self-Inflicted Injury or Death of Prisoner, 79......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Duty of Care
    • United States
    • University of Nebraska - Lincoln Nebraska Law Review No. 76, 2021
    • Invalid date
    ...1979)(recognizing a cause of action against the county jail for failure to prevent a prisoner from hanging himself); McBride v. State, 277 N.Y.S.2d 80 (N.Y. Ct. Cl. 1967)(holding supervisors of a juvenile detention center liable for the suicide of 15-year-old boy), aff'd, 294 N.Y.S.2d 265 (......

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