New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CASEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-005-001, Claim No. 95996


Synopsis


Claim for damages for the destruction of inmate's personal clothing, after contamination with blood from a fight, is denied on health and safety grounds.

Case Information

UID:
2001-005-001
Claimant(s):
JAMES CASEY a/k/a SKINNER
Claimant short name:
CASEY
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
95996
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
Donald J. Corbett, Jr.
Claimant's attorney:
James CaseyPro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney GeneralBy: Timothy P. Mulvey, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 19, 2001
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant, while an inmate confined to the Auburn Correctional Facility, alleges in this claim that he sustained the loss of personal property due to the negligence of the Defendant. On November 17, 1995, Claimant was involved in a fight with another inmate and as a direct result of the altercation he sustained personal injury which necessitated his admission to a outside hospital. Claimant testified that he was referred to an outside hospital for further medical treatment, and that he was not permitted to wear personal clothing outside the facility.

The personal items of clothing that he was wearing at the time of the fight were destroyed by correction officers for the reason that they were contaminated by blood. The judgment by the correction officers was that the clothing posed a safety hazard to staff and other inmates of the facility. Claimant seeks recompense for the value of those items of personal clothing which were destroyed by the Auburn correction officers, and brings this claim sounding in a bailment.

I find that the actions of the correction officers was reasonable and necessary for the safety of all personnel of the facility. I reject Claimant's arguments with respect to Department of Correctional Services Directive No. 4913, entitled Inmate Personal Property Limits. Claimant referenced the choices he is permitted pursuant to that directive with respect to personal property which is excessive in an amount that constitutes a fire or health hazard or unreasonably clutters the cell or room, including the mailing at the inmate's expense of surplus or disallowed property, sending such property out with a visitor, donating the same to a charitable organization or authorizing its destruction. I find that Claimant's reliance upon this directive is misplaced, as it addresses only excessive amounts of personal property, not contaminated personal property.

Although there was testimony that there was no directive in place covering the circumstances extant, there was testimony that the practice at that time was the destruction of clothing (apparently irrespective of whether it was DOCS-issued or personal clothing) contaminated by blood due to health concerns. I find this policy to be reasonable and necessary for the health and safety of State employees and other inmates who might come in contact with such contaminated clothing. I reject Claimant's additional arguments that the blood was only his, and was purportedly not commingled with the blood of any other inmate who was involved in the altercation. I similarly reject the contention that the property could have been mailed out of the facility at his expense, because this suggestion ignores the health and safety considerations of the staff who would be exposed to the contaminated clothing while preparing it for mailing, as well as postal authorities who would be handling a package containing contaminated clothing without any knowledge thereof. No, I find that the Defendant acted reasonably and properly. The Claimant's avenue of redress is not against the Defendant for the actions of its correction officers, but might be against the inmate with whom he fought, admittedly an unlikely scenario.

Claimant has failed to establish a bailment. In any event, even if there was a bailment, I find that the Defendant exercised reasonable care of the property. The loss did not occur through the negligence of the Defendant.

There has been considerable motion practice in this matter. By order filed January 15, 1998, I permitted an amended claim to be served and filed (Motion No. M-56549), but Claimant never did so. In Motion No. M-57944, filed on November 5,1998, I denied Claimant's motion to compel. More recently, in Motion No. M-58513, filed on April 14, 1999, I denied Claimant's motion for summary judgment which purported to show prior offers of settlement by Defendant. I found that there were issues of fact, at least including the question of value, and I observed that offers of settlement, in and of themselves, while suggestive of a certain willingness by Defendant to settle, do not constitute an admission of liability. And indeed, liability has not been established.

The claim is dismissed. All motions not heretofore ruled upon are now denied.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

January 19, 2001
Rochester, New York

HON. DONALD J. CORBETT, JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims