New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOORE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2002-030-030, Claim No. 99830


Pro se inmate's claim alleging personal property loss because of State's negligence as

bailee in bailment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and asking for punitive damages,

not established by a preponderance of the credible evidence

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 21, 2002
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Allen Moore, the Claimant herein, alleges that Defendant's agents negligently allowed his personal property to be lost or destroyed in March, 1997 while he was an inmate at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on January 25, 2002.

Claimant testified that on or about March 17, 1997 he was "...admitted to St. Agnes Hospital for an operation and during the time...[he was] in the hospital property that should have been packed up and put in storage didn't get placed away for whatever reason, officers neglected to pack the property and they left the property in the cell."[1]
When correctional personnel did, ultimately, pack up his property, they packed several bags, left them on the bed, used a bolt cutter to cut the lock off the locker, took personal property out of the locker, and only half packed the cell. "From information...[he] received, the cell was being opened on a daily basis while...[he] was in the hospital for approximately three weeks." No inventory forms were used, and the property was not placed in a designated storage area.
When claimant returned to population he found four bags of personal property packed on his bed, a "trashed" cell, a cut combination lock , and "$1,000.00 worth of personal property missing", as well as "personal effects (a gold chain & cross, and photographs)." [Claim No. 99830, filed February 16, 1999, Paragraph 2]. In his claim he asks for "Compensation...$100,000; Emotional Distress...$75,000; and Punitive Damages $50,000." [
Id., Paragraph 6].
On cross-examination, Claimant acknowledged having filed an inmate claim for property loss based upon this incident. He indicated that there "...might have been a settlement for certain items," and that he "may have signed a release form." When Claimant reviewed State's Exhibit "A" - the inmate claim form and release referred to - he stated that it was his understanding that this was a settlement of just part of the claimed items.

The Claim Investigation Report dated May 8, 1997 indicates: "Officer Crook verified that the inmate's cell was left unsecured and that some of his property was not in bags. He also stated that the property that wasn't put into bags was left thrown around the cell. C.O. Crook was the gallery officer on duty the day that the inmate returned from the outside hospital trip. No I-64 form was filled out because the pack up was never completed. It is also unknown which officers started the pack up. The claim will be approved for the items that the inmate has provided receipts for." [State's Exhibit "A"].

Claimant also indicated that all his papers have been lost or misplaced or stolen over time, and that he had no evidence to submit.

No other witnesses testified, and no other evidence was submitted.

This claim is one alleging negligence by the alleged bailee in a bailment created between Defendant and Claimant by delivery of Claimant's personal property into the custody of Defendant's employees .
See, generally, Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260 (1878); Ahlers v State of New York, Claim No. 82543, unreported decision filed December 23, 1991, Corbett, P.J.. The State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property. Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 (3d Dept. 1991). A delivery of property to the bailee, and the latter's failure to return it, satisfies Claimant's burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence. The bailee is then required to come forward with evidence to "overcome the presumption." Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550 (1st Dept. 1977). "Where a bailment is created, a showing that the...[property was] delivered to the bailee and returned in a damaged condition establishes a prima facie case of negligence and the burden shifts to the bailee to demonstrate that it exercised ordinary care...(citation omitted)" Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049,1050 (3d Dept. 1981).
With respect to value, Claimant must satisfy the court of the fair market value of the items in question.
Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 (4th Dept. 1989); Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21 (Nassau Co. Dist. Ct. 1973). Receipts are the best evidence of fair market value, although uncontradicted testimony concerning replacement value may also be acceptable. Personally meaningful items, such as photographs, have no fair market value. [See, Benton v State of New York, Claim No. 94337, Collins, J., July 8, 1999].
A claim seeking recovery for negligent infliction of emotional distress without alleging a "...contemporaneous or consequential physical injury..." [
See, Johnson v State of New York, 37 NY2d 378, 381 (1975)], must generally be premised upon a breach of duty owed directly to a claimant, which either endangered his physical safety or caused him to fear for his own physical safety. Thomas v Supermarkets Gen. Corp., 154 Misc 2d 828 (Nassau Co. Sup. Ct. 1992). Clearly, breach of an alleged bailment is not such a duty.
Similarly, punitive damages are available only where there has been gross negligence of a kind that is "...(1) egregious, (2) directed at the...[claimant] and (3) part of a pattern of similar conduct directed at the public at large. Punitive damages may be recovered in cases where a defendant's conduct ‘is morally culpable, or is actuated by evil and reprehensible motives, not only to punish the defendant but to deter [it] as well as others who might otherwise be so prompted, from indulging in similar conduct in the future.'" ...(
Citation omitted). Seynaeve v Hudson Moving & Stor., 261 AD2d 168, 169 (1st Dept. 1999). Punitive damages are generally unavailable in the " variety bailment case...." Id.
In this case, although the Claimant has shown that the defendant's agents were negligent in the way his personal property was handled, it appears that his claim was settled through the facility some time ago. Although he testified that it was his understanding that the settlement was only for some of his missing items, he has not presented any further clarification through testimony, or documentary proof, of exactly what lost or damaged items remain. Accordingly, Claimant has failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence, any value for his loss beyond that amount he already received through a facility claim. Claim Number 99830 is dismissed in its entirety.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

March 21, 2002
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] All quotations are to trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.