New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RIVERA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-015-568, Claim No. 102010


Pro se inmate recovered $225.00 value of personal property lost during correctional facilit transfer.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

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

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Plouris Rivera, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Joel L. Marmelstein, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 27, 2002
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

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 testified[1]
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 objection.
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 943, affd 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 Catania, 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.

August 27, 2002
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]The synopsis of the claimant's testimony is drawn from the Court's notes and the tape recording of the trial.