A trial of this claim was held at a term of this Court conducted at Marcy
Correctional Facility on May 14, 2002.
Claimant was the only witness at trial and
as follows. On June 29, 1998 at Mid-State Correctional Facility (Mid-State)
claimant was told to go to the Special Housing Unit property area to check his
property received by the facility following his transfer. Upon his arrival he
noticed that some of the property which had been inventoried at Eastern
Correctional Facility on June 23, 1998 (see
, Exhibit 1) was missing.
Claimant refused to sign the I-64 form and his refusal to sign was noted on the
form. Claimant also offered in evidence an I-64 form prepared prior to his
subsequent transfer from Mid-State to Elmira Correctional Facility in September
1998 (Exhibit 2). The exhibits were received in evidence without
The witness testified as to the value of property which he alleged was missing
and the relative age and condition of each item listed in the claim. He also
produced receipts for certain items which were shown to defense counsel but were
not marked as exhibits.
Claimant testified on cross-examination that the gold chain reported missing
was the "yellow chain with [religious] medal" listed on Exhibit 1 and that the
missing wedding band was purchased six years prior to the incident.
Defense counsel called no witnesses but directed the Court's attention to
Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) Directive 4911 which limits the value
of metals possessed by inmates to $50.00. According to counsel any such item
valued at more than $50.00 would be subject to confiscation as contraband . A
copy of the directive was not produced at trial.
To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction a
claimant must show that his property was deposited with the defendant and the
latter failed to return it. Once that is demonstrated the burden shifts to the
defendant to come forward with proof explaining the loss (
Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp.
, 60 AD2d 550). If defendant meets that
obligation it then becomes the burden of claimant to prove that the loss was
caused by defendant's negligence (Sun Yau Ko v Lincoln Sav. Bank
, 99 AD2d
62 NY2d 938). The measure of recovery in a case where bailed
property is lost is the fair market value of the property (Phillips v
, 155 AD23d 866).
Claimant established the existence of a bailment to the Court's satisfaction
thereby shifting the burden to the defendant to explain the loss. No such
explanation was offered and the State is liable for claimant's loss. While the
value of claimant's used property is somewhat difficult to determine the general
rule of estimating value is to consider its cost and condition as affected by
use with a due allowance being given for deterioration (
Goor v Navilio
, 177 Misc 970). Here the Court has decided to permit
claimant to recover the following amounts for the items listed: 2 blankets
($10.00); 6 sweat pants ($12.00); 1 typewriter ($100.00); 2 jewelry items
($100.00) and 2 cassette tapes ($3.00) for a total of $225.00 inclusive of
interest. In addition, claimant shall recover the $50.00 paid as a filing fee
pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a.
The Clerk shall enter judgment in accord
with this decision.