James Royall, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 103439 that
Defendant's agents negligently lost his property during a transfer from Green
Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven). Trial of the matter was
held at Green Haven on August 23, 2002.
Claimant testified that he and approximately nine other inmates were suddenly
readied for transfer from Green Haven to Upstate Correctional Facility on or
about December 24, 1999. Claimant was taken from his cell, and brought to
another block, while "two or three officers went in to his cell, took out all
his property, and brought it to the block he'd been taken
temporarily for packing. He testified there were many inmates being readied
for the draft, and there was "lots of property lying around." Ten bags of
property were packed for him, but the "person with authority" decided that
because so many inmates were being moved, each would only take one bag with him
- as opposed to the usual four bags an inmate could take - and that bag would
include only state issued clothing and necessary toiletries. Everything was
repacked to comply with this decision, again into ten
Claimant said three "I-64 forms were completed." He was presented with one form
for the "four bags"
that would be sent at no expense to him, but that he did not sign because it
didn't indicate his legal material; another form for the extra bags to be
shipped at his expense that he signed "because it contained [reference to] his
legal documents", and a third form reflecting the one draft bag that was going
with him that he also signed. [See
, Claimant's Exhibit "1" including
exhibits "C" "D" and
While he was at Upstate, and in or about early January, 2000, he "got worried
about...[ his] property and had...[ his] counselor call Green Haven to see what
happened to it." She wrote back to him on January 11, 2000 that Green Haven
reported that 4 bags were shipped on December 24, 1999 via the United States
Postal Service, and that it would take four weeks since the bags are shipped
fourth class. [
Exhibit "A"]. No bags came.
Thereafter, and on February 8, 2000, Claimant's counselor reported to him that
Green Haven said that "seven bags of...[his] property were delivered via
civilian driver to Upstate on or around...[January 4, 2000]. So, according to
Green Haven, all of your property is at Upstate." [
Exhibit "B"]. Sometime after he received this memorandum, he was
called down to the property room to examine the seven bags there. Claimant said
he "documented to himself" things that were missing, but he couldn't be totally
sure because he had only one-half hour to examine the bags. Only after he sought
copies of the I-64s, and property room records, did he determine that even more
property than that he originally thought was missing, was missing.
He pursued an institutional claim. [
, Exhibit "G"]. As of August 28, 2000, according to a letter sent
by Claimant to the Deputy Superintendent of Administration, he was undergoing
the facility appellate process, but had been foreclosed from pursuing the
institutional claim any further since he had not furnished receipts requested by
the institution steward. [See, Id
, Exhibits"I", "G1", "G2"]. This appears
to have exhausted his administrative remedies.
In his Claim, he incorporates the list of allegedly missing items in his
administrative claim, including, but not limited to, personal photographs,
several pairs of shoes, a pair of boots and two pairs of sneakers, and clothing.
He also seeks damages for emotional harm and mental anguish.
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 .
, Claflin v Meyer
, 75 NY 260 (1878); Ahlers v
State of New York,
Claim No. 82543, Corbett, P.J., December 23, 1991. The
State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property. Pollard v State of
, 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
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
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
, 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
, Claim No. 94337, Collins, J., July 8, 1999].
In this case, Claimant has established that he had surrendered certain personal
property items to New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter
DOCS) custody and control, and that some property was lost. The I-64 forms
themselves show the discrepancies asserted. The Claimant presented as a
credible witness, whose testimony was essentially uncontroverted.
Unfortunately, even a review of the exhibits submitted with the Claim,
incorporated as Claimant's sworn testimony concerning the property lost, makes
for a somewhat inexact estimate of value. As noted, however, a Court may
consider such testimony as evidence of fair market value. Accordingly,
considering claimant's testimony concerning the property lost, the total loss
supported by the record including depreciation - exclusive of the photographs -
is $200.00. The credible evidence established the following reasonable values
for his losses: $68.00 for four pairs of leather shoes; $32.00 for one pair of
boots; $26.00 for two pairs of basketball sneakers; and $74.00 for four shirts
and one sweater.
Accordingly, Claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $200.00 with
appropriate interest from January 8, 2000. It is ordered that to the extent that
claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recoverable pursuant to Court of
Claims Act § 11-a (2).
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.