New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MOORE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-030-031, Claim No. 99925


Synopsis


Pro se inmate's bailment claim alleging damage to personal property dismissed for failure to establish prima facie case. Even if delivery established, no proof of value through receipts or testimony

Case Information

UID:
2002-030-031
Claimant(s):
ALLEN MOORE
Claimant short name:
MOORE
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
99925
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant's attorney:
ALLEN MOORE, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERALBy: ELYSE ANGELICO, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 21, 2002
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
Allen Moore, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 99925 that Defendant's agents negligently allowed his personal property to be lost or destroyed in or about November, 1998 when he was transferred from Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing) to Fishkill Correctional Facility (hereafter Fishkill). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on January 25, 2002.

Claimant testified that on or about September 11, 1998, as a result of a Tier III disciplinary hearing disposition at Sing Sing he was given "...180 days keeplock and confiscation of all personal property and permit items."[1]
While he was held in "the pen" after the hearing, officers proceeded to his cell to pack up the confiscated items, to be sent to the storage area and returned to him after he had served his disciplinary time.
In reviewing the attachments to the Claim, there is an I-64 inventory form pertinent to what items were confiscated as a result of the Tier III disposition at Sing Sing.
[See, Claim No.99925, filed March 4, 1999, Exhibit A-2]. There are two "contraband receipts" also dated September 11, 1998 indicating that one green sweatshirt and one pair of yellow sweat pants were confiscated by Sing Sing personnel; and a Timex watch was "placed in Watch Commander's evidence locker." [See, Id., Exhibits "B" and "C"]. No value is indicated for the items
On November 4, 1998 he was "packed up for a draft," including only that property still in his cell - essentially one bag of State issued clothing -because of the disciplinary disposition. The following day he was removed to Fishkill. He arrived at Downstate November 5
, 1998, then transferred to Fishkill, where he was placed in Special Housing Unit (SHU) "double-bunking facility." He was given the one bag of State issued clothing that had been packed up from Sing Sing.
According to his claim, on January 31, 1999 Claimant reviewed the property that should have been transferred with him on November 4, 1998, and found numerous personal effects missing. The property was scheduled to be returned on December 12, 1998, after the confiscation period ended. What did arrive at Fishkill was "some of the property, but what is mentioned in the Claim is what was missing."

Attached to his Claim, there is what appears to be an I-64 completed at Fishkill on January 31, 1999. [
See, Claim No. 99925, filed March 4, 1999, Exhibit "D"]. He indicated that what he asserts was missing is indicated on Exhibit "E" to the present Claim. [Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. The list includes: 15 cassette tapes, 1 yellow sweat pants, 1 Timex watch (yellow), 1 beard trimmer (Wahls), 1 am/fm radio, 1 cassette player, 1 pack of cigarettes, 3 packs of cigars, 3 rolls rich tobacco, 1 soft shoe brush, 3 shoe polish, 1 bottle of glue.
On cross-examination, Claimant acknowledged that he received "some items back." He wasn't "sure" whether he had filed a facility grievance at Fishkill, because the "property never got to Fishkill;" and he hadn't filed one at Sing Sing because he "wasn't there anymore." No receipts were presented, nor was there any testimony concerning value.

In his Claim, Claimant seeks $3,000 in "compensation" and $2,000 for punitive damages.

No other witnesses testified.

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.
Finally, 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 motive, 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 a "...garden variety bailment case...."[Id.] such as this one.
Here, while there has been the suggestion of delivery of at least the sweat clothes and the Timex watch, and the same minimal level of proof as to loss, there has been no proof of value as to any items. Accordingly, Defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to establish a
prima facie case, reserved on at the time of trial, is hereby granted, and Claim Number 99925 is dismissed in its entirety.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

March 21, 2002
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




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