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
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
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.