Horace Thomas alleges negligence by the defendant for allowing his personal
property to be stolen or confiscated during a cell search and brings this claim
to recover damages for the loss of his wedding band. This claim was tried at
Sullivan County Correctional Facility on June 22, 2000. Claimant testified in
support of his action. On its case, defendant called Sergeant James Dunn to the
At approximately 9:45 A.M. on June 12, 1998, Thomas was directed, along with
the other inmates in the B-North housing unit at Sullivan Correctional Facility,
to exit his cell for a fire drill. The inmates left the housing unit under the
supervision of a correction officer. While the inmates were away from the
housing unit for the fire drill, the correction officers conducted a K-9 frisk
of the individual cells (see claimant's Exhibits 6 and 7). According to Thomas,
upon returning from the fire drill, he found that his wedding band was missing
from his cell.
It is well recognized that an inmate may recover the reasonable value of items
of personal property lost when the correctional facility negligently fails to
secure the area of his cell. See
Foy v State of New York
, 182 AD2d 670, 582 NYS2d 262 (2d Dept 1992);
Pollard v State of New York
, 173 AD2d 906, 569 NYS2d 770 (3d Dept 1991).
Upon assessing the evidence together with the testimony offered at trial, the
court finds the claimant is entitled to recover damages for the lost wedding
The main issue to be determined in this matter is the amount that claimant is
entitled to recover for the loss of his ring. He is seeking to recover $150,
which would be the maximum amount available: the Local Permit authorizing the
claimant to have the wedding band within the facility set a value limitation of
$150. See claimant's Exhibit 3 and NYCRR §724
seq. However, the Local Permit, which was signed by claimant,
estimated the value of the band at $45. Although the claimant testified that
the value of the band was greater than the $45 noted on the Local Permit, he was
unable to provide a receipt or any other evidence that would demonstrate the
true value of the ring.
The Permit itself provides that if an "item is received without a receipt, a
value will be placed on [it] as determined by the Deputy Superintendent of
Security or from the previous permit."
In addition, a procedure exists for an inmate to contest a value determined by
the facility when there is no receipt. While Thomas' situation is not an
unsympathetic one, I am constrained to limit his recovery to $45.
As to the cause of action for mental anguish or emotional distress, claimant
did not, by testimony or other evidence, set forth a basis for recovery. Such
recovery must "generally be premised upon a breach of a duty owed directly to
the plaintiff which either endangered the plaintiff's physical safety or caused
. . . fear for his or her own physical safety" (
Brown v New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.
, 225 AD2d 36, 44, 648
NYS2d 880, 885 [2d Dept1996]), or where the emotional distress was
intentionally or recklessly inflicted by outrageous or extreme conduct
(Howell v New York Post Co.
, 81 NY2d 115, 596 NYS2d 350
In view of the foregoing, I find that Horace Thomas is entitled to an award of
$45, with interest from June 12, 1998.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.