New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-014, Claim No. 93968


Prisoner - bailment - claimant established State lost items of his personal property, but failed to establish his damages. No liability - dismissed.

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:
Derrick M. Johnson, Pro So
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
Attorney General of the State of New YorkBy: Elyse Angelico, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 23, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


pro se prisoner claim alleges negligence on the part of the State in losing items of claimant's property when he was transferred from one cell to another at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing) on April 19, 1996.
At trial, held at Sing Sing on August 10, 2000, claimant testified that on April 19, 1996 he was transferred to a cell in a different building at Sing Sing. Before his transfer, claimant was told to pack his property into draft bags. Claimant stated that he filled four bags with his property, but because he was handcuffed, he did not carry his property to the new cell. Claimant further stated that approximately ten minutes after he arrived at his new cell, other inmates arrived with three of his four draft bags of property. Claimant stated that all his legal documents were lost as a result of the State's negligence.

Claimant submitted an inmate grievance (Exh. 2) regarding his lost property. In response, the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee advised claimant that an investigation established that claimant's property could not be found and he was advised to file a claim (Exh. 1). Claimant also submitted into evidence a copy of his I-64 Form (Personal Property Transferred Form) dated December 28, 1995 indicating the property he possessed on that date when he was transferred from Downstate Correctional Facility to Sing Sing (Exh. 3). This document shows that claimant possessed legal papers and letters on December 28, 1995. Claimant's uncontroverted testimony established that I-64 Forms are not filled out when an inmate is transferred to a different cell within a particular facility.

Based upon the evidence submitted, we find and conclude that claimant has established, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, the possession of legal documents on the date they were lost. No evidence was presented to establish the documents were destroyed or sent out of the facility by claimant. We further find that claimant established the existence of a bailment. The State's refusal or inability to return the bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence by the defendant, a presumption the State has failed to rebut (
Singer Co. v Stott & Davis Motor Express, 79 AD2d 227).
However, to recover damages, claimant was required to establish the identity and value of his legal documents. This he failed to do, even in response to direct inquiry by the Court. In addition, he did not establish how many pages of documents he possessed or what the replacement cost was. As claimant failed to establish his damages, his claim must be, and is hereby dismissed. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

August 23, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims