New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SINCLAIR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2001-019-012, Claim No. 98271


Synopsis


Claimant awarded $269.00 on bailment claim for missing personal property.

Case Information

UID:
2001-019-012
Claimant(s):
ALEXIS SINCLAIR
Claimant short name:
SINCLAIR
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
98271
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
ALEXIS SINCLAIR, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
June 22, 2001
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant, a
pro se inmate, alleges that certain personal property with a total value of $815.00 was lost while in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services. The trial of this Claim took place on May 15, 2001, at the Elmira Correctional Facility.

Claimant testified that on or about November 17, 1997, he packed a box of personal property in the presence of Correction Officer McKlies at Southport Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Southport") for mailing to Wende Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Wende"). At this time, an Authorization for Disposal of Personal Property form was completed and signed by Claimant and Correction Officer McKlies dated November 17, 1997. (Claimant's Exhibit 1). The box was then mailed by way of the United States Postal Service from Southport to Wende. On or about December 15, 1997 the box arrived at Wende. When Claimant examined the box he discovered it had been opened and was missing approximately 500 photographs, an AC adapter, six legal writing pads, one mirror, headphones, a loose leaf notebook, and some legal research papers.


The State called Draft Officer Bartczak from Wende. Officer Bartczak acknowledged that the above-referenced items were missing despite the fact that they were listed on the original Southport packing list meaning that they were placed in the box at Southport. (Cl. Ex. 1). Correction Officer Bartczak further testified that if the box had been opened in transit, it would have been so acknowledged upon receipt at Wende by its staff or by way of a notification from the United States Postal Service. Based upon the lack of any such notation Officer Bartczak opined that all seals on the box must have been in place upon its arrival at Wende. Therefore the Court believes this box was opened after its arrival at Wende, outside Claimant's presence and prior to his receipt of the same.


To prove a bailment cause of action, Claimant must demonstrate that his property was deposited with the State and that the State refused to return it after its return was demanded. (
Weinberg v. D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550; Heede Hoist & Mach. Co. v Bayview Towers Apts., 74 AD2d 598). While the State tried to offer several alternatives and theories as to what might or might not have occurred, the Court finds most reasonable, and most credible, the Claimant's version as to what transpired, namely that Claimant's box was received in pristine condition at Wende and was opened outside of his presence. Consequently, Claimant should recover for the above-referenced items.

With respect to damages, Claimant alleges a total loss of $815.00, but submitted a receipt only with respect to the missing headphones. (Cl. Ex. 4). The headphone receipt shows an original cost of $20.99 from June 16, 1997.[1]
For those items without receipts, the Court must determine fair market value of the missing property less depreciation from the credible evidence presented at trial. (Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21, 24). Claimant alleges the greatest loss from his 500 photographs for which he seeks compensation of $1.50 each based upon their sentimental value. The Court finds the reasonable estimate of fair market value for the personal property listed above is as follows:
Claimed Value Amount Awarded
AC Adapter[2]$8.00 $4.00
Headphones $20.79 $10.00
Legal Writing Pads (6) $4.62 $2.00
Legal Research Papers $25.00 -0-
Loose Leaf Notebook $5.00 $2.00
Mirror[3]$2.00 $1.00
Photographs (500) $750.00 $250.00
TOTAL: $269.00


The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment in favor of Claimant for the sum of $269.00 plus interest at the statutory rate from December 15, 1997.


ENTER JUDGMENT ACCORDINGLY.


June 22, 2001
Binghamton, New York

HON. FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]Claimant lists $20.79 as the claimed value of the headphones.
[2]Claimant's Inmate Claim Form indicates the adaptor as 1 year old.
[3]Claimant's Inmate Claim Form indicates the mirror as 2 years old.