New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WEST v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-019-012, Claim No. 97631


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2002-019-012
Claimant(s):
ERNEST WEST, 92A6230
Claimant short name:
WEST
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
97631
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FERRIS D. LEBOUS
Claimant's attorney:
ERNEST WEST, 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 12, 2002
City:
Binghamton
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant, Ernest West, an inmate appearing
pro se, alleges that items of his personal property were lost due to the negligence and deliberate indifference of the State of New York while said property was in the custody of employees of the Department of Correctional Services at Eastern Correctional Facility (hereinafter "Facility"). The trial of this Claim was held at the Elmira Correctional Facility on May 29, 2002.

Claimant testified at trial that on July 31, 1997 he was transferred from the Facility to the Bergen County Correctional Facility in Hackensack, New Jersey for various New Jersey court proceedings. Apparently Claimant remained in Bergen County until November 6, 1997. On that date Claimant was returned to Eastern Correctional Facility and requested that his eight bags of personal property be returned. These eight bags had previously been packed and stored at the facility prior to Claimant's departure to Bergen County. When Claimant, on or about November 6, 1997, was taken to unpack and obtain his property he learned that the property storage area in the basement of said Facility had sustained water damage. The correction officers at the Facility unpacked and inventoried his personal property and Claimant alleges he lost among other things various legal documents including two trial transcripts, approximately 600 pages each, with associated legal papers; various items of clothing; some personal cosmetics; a beard trimmer/clipper; and a radio. Claimant testified that while he was upset at the loss, he was assured that all property would be tracked down and returned to him. He waited several days and received nothing. Consequently, this timely Claim ensued.


On cross-examination Claimant acknowledged he had no receipts of purchases for any of the items nor did he have any I-64s. Claimant testified that he had previously submitted all of these items to the Attorney General in response to various discovery demands. However, the Attorney General's file and the Court's files show that no such discovery demands were received. As such Claimant receipts or I-64s associated with this Claim have either been lost, or do not exist.


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 that the latter failed to return it.[1]
(Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). Without proof of ownership - receipts or I-64s - of the items Claimant possessed on or about July 31, 1997, or proof of the items returned to him on or about November 6, 1997, the Court cannot determine what, if any, of Claimant's property was actually lost while in the custody of the Facility. Consequently, Claimant has failed to meet his burden of proof, with any competent evidence, regarding the items lost or the damages associated therewith. Consequently, the State's motion to dismiss, upon which the Court previously reserved at trial, is now GRANTED and Claim No. 97631 is hereby DISMISSED.

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


ENTER JUDGMENT ACCORDINGLY.


June 12, 2002
Binghamton, New York

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




[1] The requirements of Court of Claims Act 10 (9) are not applicable to this case, because said statute did not become effective until December 7, 1999 (L 1999, c. 412), whereas this claim accrued on or about November 6, 1997.