New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

JOHNSON v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-006, Claim Nos. 94323, 94687


Claimant's bailment claim is dismissed.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
94323, 94687
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
BY: Joseph F. Romani, Assistant Attorney General, of counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 15, 2002

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Claimant, Lawrence Johnson, an inmate appearing
pro se, alleges a loss of his personal property while in the possession of correction officers while at the Elmira Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility"). Prior to trial, the parties agreed that Claim No. 94323 was, in all respects, identical to Claim No. 94687. Consequently, Claim No. 94323 was dismissed by stipulation of the parties and this Decision relates to the trial of Claim No. 94687 only, which trial was held at Elmira Correctional Facility on April 30, 2002.

Claimant testified that on May 17, 1996 he was transferred from the Facility hospital ward to the Special Housing Unit (hereinafter "SHU"). Claimant stated that he wanted to take his typewriter and various legal books but was told to leave all his personal property on the bed at the hospital unit where it would be packed and delivered to him later in SHU. Claimant was then escorted to SHU by Correction Officers Eck and Swingle as well as Sergeant Bosch. Once at SHU Claimant requested his property and received the same a day or two later. Claimant alleges that a number of items of his personal property were subsequently missing when delivered to him later in SHU. Claimant alleges that he was missing a Black's Law Dictionary, a legal encyclopedia, a book by F. Lee Bailey, a book on constitutional rights, a book on police misconduct, a seven volume set on criminal proceedings, a West Federal Practice Digest, criminal law reports, Prisoner Self Help Litigation, earphones, tapes, sweatshirt, and sweatpants, all totaling $6,440.00.

The State called Correction Officer Lane E. Eck, a retired correction officer previously employed at the Facility. Officer Eck testified that on May 17, 1996 he was present and transported Claimant from the Facility hospital to the SHU. Claimant's property was subsequently packed and delivered to him in SHU. Officer Eck testified that all of the items listed on the I-64, State's Exhibit A, is exactly what was within his possession at the time it was packed and exactly what was delivered to him several days later in SHU. Moreover, Officer Eck correctly pointed out that when the property was delivered to Claimant in SHU he signed for the same and on the I-64 did not note anything out of the ordinary nor did he note any item of personal property missing. In short, the witness testified that he accounted for all items on the I-64 and that all of those items were delivered to the Claimant without complaint or objection. Moreover, this witness testified that there were no other items in the Claimant's hospital room other than those listed and noted on the I-64 at the time they were packed.

To establish a case of negligence in a bailment transaction, a claimant must show that his property was deposited with the defendant and that the latter failed to return it. (
Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). Claimant failed to sustain this burden. The Court has no reason to believe that Claimant had in his possession items other than those listed on the I-64. In fact, when the property was returned to him on or about May 20, 1996, Claimant signed for the same without objection and without noting any missing items. Furthermore, while Claimant submitted some receipts for various items, there was very little to establish that the allegedly missing items were ever purchased by Claimant in the first instance. Nevertheless, even if some of those items had in fact been purchased by Claimant, there was no proof that he had those items in his possession at the time he left the Facility hospital on May 17, 1996.

Accordingly, for the reason outlined above, Claim No. 94687 is hereby DISMISSED.

All other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.


May 15, 2002
Binghamton, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims