New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PATTERSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2000-029-020, Claim No. 94538


Prisoner - alleged failure to properly secure property. Court finds State negligent, awards claimant $126.00.

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:
Bernard Patterson, Pro Se
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:
September 26, 2000
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


This claim, by a
pro se prisoner, seeks recovery from defendant for damages which claimant alleges were the result of the State's negligence in failing to properly secure his property while it was under the State's care and control after he left his dormitory cubicle at Tappan Correctional Facility.
The trial of this action was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on August 10, 2000. The Court, at the conclusion of the trial, allowed claimant until September 11, 2000 to submit to the Court and the Attorney General copies of his local permits for the items he alleges were lost. The parties were advised that the case would be considered fully submitted on September 11, 2000.

Tappan Correctional Facility (hereinafter Tappan) is a medium security facility located within Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereinafter Sing Sing). At trial, claimant testified that: (1) on July 10, 1995 he was transferred from Sing Sing to Tappan; (2) his property was packed and sent with him (see Exh. 1, I-64 Form); (3) during the night of September 22, 1995, he had an asthma attack and was taken to the infirmary at Sing Sing; (4) following his release from the infirmary he was taken to a cell in Building 5 at Sing Sing; (5) the following morning, September 23, 1995, his property was brought to him and when he inspected it, he noticed several items were missing. Exhibit 2 is a copy of the I-64 Form recording claimant's property when he was transferred from Tappan to Sing Sing on September 23, 1995. Claimant testified that the Inmate Claim Form (Exh. 3) accurately reflects the items he alleges were lost or stolen, to wit, 12 cassette tapes, ear phones, a typewriter and an electric razor. Claimant alleges that the items were lost or stolen because State employees failed to secure his property after he was taken from his dormitory cubicle at Tappan to the infirmary at Sing Sing. The State produced no witnesses and, therefore, claimant's version of the facts is the sole testimony before this Court.

At the close of claimant's proof, the State moved to dismiss on the basis that claimant failed to establish a
prima facie claim as he failed to establish that he was authorized to possess the earphones, typewriter and razor. These items all required local permits and claimant submitted no such permits. The State also asserted that claimant failed to establish his damages as he presented no proof as to the alleged missing items' value. In response to the State's motion, claimant asserted that on September 23, 1995, he did have the necessary local permits allowing him to possess the earphones, typewriter and razor. He asserted that the permits would be contained in his package room folder. The Court was advised that claimant's inmate records are located at Wende Correctional Facility, where claimant is currently housed. The Court, therefore, gave claimant 30 days to submit copies of the pertinent local permits to the Court to establish that he was allowed to possess these items. The September 11, 2000 deadline for submission of the permits has passed, and the Court has received no communication from claimant.
It appears to be the State's argument that the earphones, typewriter and razor were contraband, as there is no proof that the possession of these items were authorized by the facility and that since the items were contraband, claimant is not entitled to damage for their loss. The State also asserts that claimant failed to establish the existence of a bailment.

Based upon the documentary evidence submitted (Exhs. 1 and 2) and claimant's credible, uncontradicted trial testimony, we find and conclude that claimant has established, by a preponderance of the credible evidence that he possessed the 12 cassette tapes, earphones, typewriter and razor on September 23, 1995, the date they were lost. We further find and conclude that the items were under the care and control of the defendant. The State's refusal or inability to return the bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence by the defendant, a presumption that the State has failed to rebut (
Singer Co. v Stott & Davis Motor Express, 79 AD2d 227).
Inmate Rule 113.23 (7 NYCRR 270.2 [B] [14] [xiv]) provides that inmates shall not be in possession of contraband, therein defined as "any article that is not authorized by the superintendent or designee". Here, when claimant was transferred from Sing Sing to Tappan on July 10, 1995 his property included the earphones, typewriter and razor (see Exh. 1). If claimant did not possess proper permits for these items, the officer inventorying claimant's property should have confiscated them. Therefore, despite the failure of claimant to submit the local permits, we find that these items were properly possessed by claimant and he is entitled to damages for their loss.

We find and conclude that the value of the items which were in claimant's possession at the time of their loss had depreciated due to their age and the fact that claimant had used them (see Ehx. 3). The Court finds the depreciated value to be as follows:
12 Cassette Tapes @ $3.00/tape $ 36.00
Earphones $ 15.00
Typewriter $ 60.00
Electric Trimer (Razor)
$ 15.00


Accordingly, we find and conclude that claimant is entitled to judgment in the sum of $126.00, the depreciated value of the lost property as determined by the Court. This sum is to bear appropriate interest from September 23, 1995. The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

September 26, 2000
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims