A trial of the above referenced pro se inmate claim was held at a term of the
Court at Marcy Correctional Facility on May 14, 2002. This decision addresses
both liability and damages.
The claim (No. 100642) seeks to recover $252.00 in damages for the loss of 26
personal photographs allegedly missing from claimant's bin bag (#189) at
Mid-State Correctional Facility (Mid-State). The loss was discovered by
claimant on April 5, 1999 when he attempted to exchange his 10 in-cell
photographs for other photos stored in a "bin bag", i.e., a box located
somewhere outside the inmate's cell, pursuant to some unspecified rule
allegedly applicable to the special housing unit (SHU) at Mid-State. Claimant
alleged that the loss occurred due to the negligence and malfeasance of DOCS
employees in failing to secure his property. He calculated damages at $2.00 per
photograph ($52.00) and also seeks the sum of $200.00 said to be the sentimental
value of 12 of the photographs which depicted a deceased relative.
At the trial of this claim the claimant testified that upon his arrival at
Mid-State Correctional Facility he completed an I-64 form which included the
unspecified contents of 5 photo albums. In addition, during his stay at
Mid-State he received approximately 26 additional photos. When he left Mid-State
for Auburn Correctional Facility he had 5 photos. The witness alleged that an
inmate is permitted to have only 4 - 5 photos in his cell at any given time;
all other photos are to be stored in an outside box from which the inmate may
exchange photos periodically. According to his testimony, one day the witness
asked for a box check and discovered that several photos were missing.
Claimant filed an administrative grievance for the lost property but the
grievance was denied on the ground that an inventory of the claimant's photos
had not been conducted and it could not be determined if the purportedly missing
photographs were to be found within claimant's 5 photo albums which were in
storage. Claimant alleged at trial that his photos could not have been
misplaced in those photo albums since the albums were packed and stored in a
different area to which he did not have access.
When he was subsequently transferred to Auburn Correctional Facility an
inventory of the photos contained in the albums was completed. Claimant alleges
that upon completion of the inventory he noted that the 26 additional
photographs received during his stay at Mid-State were not accounted for. He
seeks compensation for their loss.
Claimant was not cross-examined by defense counsel who instead moved to dismiss
the claim due to claimant's failure to prove a prima facie case arguing that the
lost property has no fair market value.
In order to recover money damages in a bailment case claimant must show that
the property was delivered to the bailee who failed to return it (
Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp.
, 60 AD2d 550). Claimant failed at trial to
establish by credible evidence that the purportedly missing photographs were
ever placed in the outside box thereby transferring custody of the photos to
DOCS. Consequently, he failed to meet his burden of proof regarding bailment of
the lost items.
While personal photographs may have sentimental value "the law does not
recognize or make allowance for a purely sentimental value which the property
may have (
Goor v Navilio
, 177 Misc 970). Moreover, this Court has held that
personal photographs have no fair market value upon which recovery in a bailment
case may be based (see
, Benton v State of New York
, Ct Cl, July 8,
1999 [Claim No. 94337] Collins, J., unreported; see also Moore v State
of New York
, Ct Cl, March 21, 2002 [Claim No. 99830] Scuccimarra, J.,
., Phillips v Catania
, 155 AD2d
Accordingly, the defendant's motion to dismiss the claim is granted. Judgment
shall be entered by the Clerk in accord with this decision.