This claim arose on July 31, 1996 at Greene Correctional Facility when property
was removed from two lockers assigned to claimant in the G1 housing unit.
Claimant testified that he locked up his personal belongings prior to going to
the recreation yard. At the time that he would have normally returned from the
yard, he was injured when another inmate attempted to cut him. When he finally
returned to his room, he discovered that the bedding had been stripped and all
his personal belongings taken from his lockers. The combination locks securing
the lockers had been forcibly opened.
Correction Officer Adopo testified that he was on duty in the G1 housing unit
on the day in question. His duties included patrolling the television room, the
laundry room and other rooms, in addition to the dormitory room. Undoubtedly
the theft from claimant's lockers occurred sometime when the officer was in
another part of the unit.
This is not an action for bailment, where property is delivered from one person
to another "for a particular purpose under the express or implied contract with
the understanding that it shall be redelivered to the person delivering it, or
kept until he reclaims it after fulfillment of the purpose for which it was
delivered" (9 NY Jur 2d, Bailments and Chattel Leases, ¶ 1, p 9).
In this instance, the property that was lost was in claimant's possession and
control and was apparently stolen by a third party. It is necessary, therefore,
for him to prove that the State was negligent and that that negligence allowed
others to break into the lockers and commit the theft.
The State's principle duty in supervising its prisons is to
exercise "reasonable care under the circumstances" to protect against
foreseeable harm (Basso
, 40 NY2d 233, 241). Prison
administrators are given a wide range of discretion in carrying out their
multiple responsibilities "to secure their institutions against escape, to
prevent the transfer or possession of contraband, and to protect the safety of
inmates and prison employees" and to manage the daily activities of the inmates
(Matter of Rivera v Smith
, 63 NY2d 501, 512). Decisions regarding
placement and duties of prison guards are matters of judgment, and claimant has
failed to prove that the decision to have a single housing unit officer patrol
various areas, rather than assigning multiple guards to constantly monitor each
area, was unreasonable under the circumstances. The State is not an insurer of
the safety of its inmates or their property (Padgett v State of New York
163 AD2d 914, lv denied
76 NY2d 711; Casella v State of New York
121 AD2d 495), and negligence will not be inferred from the mere happening of an
incident (Mochen v State of New York
, 57 AD2d 719; Van Barneveld v
State of New York
, 35 AD2d 900).
Accordingly, the claim is dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.