New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

THOMAS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-017-008, Claim No. 98324


The Court dismissed claimant's Claim for the destruction of personal property on the ground that claimant failed to present any proof to substantiate his claim that photographs that he received at Fishkill Correctional Facility, where he was incarcerated, were damaged by staff members who opened the mail searching for contraband

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Pete Thomas, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Dewey Lee, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 16, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, an inmate proceeding
pro se, seeks compensation for the alleged damage of personal property, namely photos and cards sent to him, caused by the negligent mishandling of incoming mail by Fishkill Correctional Facility (hereinafter "FCF") staff members in their failure to follow procedures on resealing the envelopes after searching them for contraband. The trial of this matter was held at FCF on May 25, 2000. Claimant was the sole witness who testified at trial. Defendant called no witnesses.
Claimant testified that he received photos and cards on February 4,1998.[1]
He stated that after his mail was searched for contraband the envelopes were stapled closed , which caused staple holes in the photos and cards contained therein. Claimant testified that he believed this was done by Department of Correctional Services personnel.
Claimant testified that he filed a grievance prior to filing a claim and was subsequently advised to file a claim in connection with this matter. Claimant stated that he had discussed this problem with staff at FCF before the filing of this claim, but that no action was taken on the facility's behalf.

Claimant stated that he attempted to have the photographs fixed. He stated that he sent them to his wife so she could take them to different "spots" to see if she could get them fixed, but that she was not able to do so. Claimant was unsure of the value of the damage to the pictures. Claimant testified that he was unable to produce the pictures because his wife was in the hospital at that time.

Having reviewed claimant's testimony and the evidence produced at this trial, the Court finds that claimant failed to present a
prima facie case of negligence. Claimant was unable to produce any evidence of his actual receipt of these photos by mail. At trial, claimant was unable to produce the photos or cards in order for the court to attempt to assess any damages that might have been incurred. Claimant also did not produce the envelopes which he alleged were stapled and contained the damaged photos. In short, claimant failed to produce any evidence to prove his claim.
In his claim, claimant states that the Memorandum of Carl Oken, Steward, offering to settle the claim for $5.00 is evidence that "the steward is willing to accept responsibility for the stated neglect." Under §4547 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, this evidence of a statement made in furtherance of settlement negotiations is inadmissible.[2]

Accordingly , the Clerk is directed to enter a judgment dismissing the claim.

June 16, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] All references to testimony are from the Court's review of the audiotape of the trial unless otherwise indicated.

CPLR § 4547 reads:
Evidence of (a) furnishing, or offering or promising to furnish, or (b) accepting,
or offering or promising to accept, any valuable consideration in compromising
or attempting to compromise a claim which is disputed as to either validity or
amount of damages, shall be inadmissible as proof of liability for or invalidity
of the claim or the amount of damages. Evidence of any conduct or statement
made during compromise negotiations shall also be inadmissible.