New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SPIRLES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-032-023, , Motion No. M-65985


A motion for permission to late file a bailment claim, brought by a State prison inmate, is denied. The remedy afforded by Court of Claims Act §10(6) is not available with respect to inmate property loss claims.

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:
Willie Spirles, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney General
By: Eileen Bryant, Esq., Assistant Attorney General,Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 6, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


A motion for permission to late file a property loss claim, brought by a State prison inmate, is denied on the ground that the Court of Claims Act does not provide for such relief. In addition, because of the unusual circumstances involved here, the Court questions whether movant's claim has in fact accrued.

Movant's proposed claim alleges that on April 5, 2002, at Upstate Correctional Facility ("Upstate"), he received some of his property and discovered that several books were missing. He filed an inmate claim to recover the value of these books. That claim was "disapproved" on April 17, 2002, with the following statement: "Per Sgt, books are excess and are located in bin area" (proposed claim, Exhibit A). Although the documents currently before the Court do not provide specific details, it appears that, at least in the area where claimant was housed in April 2002, inmates were permitted to have only a certain amount of property in their cells. Excess property would be placed in a storage "bin," and at certain specified times inmates were permitted to exchange property in their cell for property held in the storage bin.
Movant then sought to confirm that his books were in this area. In late April or early May, he filed a grievance complaint in an effort to gain access to the books. In response to this grievance, the Inmate Grievance Resolution Committee (IGRC) stated that it was "in agreement" with his complaint and advised movant that "bin exchange is done every thirty days" and that "any further information can be obtained from building staff" (id, Exhibit B). According to the proposed claim, movant has continued to request that he be given access to his books for over six months. At first he was told that they were too heavy to bring to him but more recently, on a date not specified in the proposed claim, Officer T. James informed him that the books were not in the bin area but that "We told you that to keep you from suing us" (id, ¶9).
A property loss claim brought by a State prison inmate must be commenced within 120 days of the date on which he finally exhausts his administrative remedies (Court of Claims Act §10[9]). As this Court explained in greater detail in McCann v State of New York (UID#2002-032-011, Motion No. M-65579, Nov. 14, 2002, Hard, J.), subdivision (6) of Court of Claims Act §10 authorizes the Court, in appropriate circumstances, to permit the late filing of claims that were not filed or served within the time limitations "provided in the foregoing subdivisions." Most of the time limitations for commencing actions in the Court of Claims are contained in subdivsions (1) through (4) of section 10. The time limitation applicable to State prisoner property loss claims, however, is contained in subdivision (9) and thus, by its express language, subdivision (6) does not create a late-filing remedy with respect to these claims. Consequently, this motion must be denied.
The Court observes, however, that movant's claim may not have accrued. A cause of action for bailment accrues "when the bailor demands the property and the bailee refuses to deliver it" (Heede Hoist and Machine Co., Inc. v Bayview Towers Apartments, Inc., 74 AD2d 598). It does not appear that, in these rather unusual circumstances, prison officials have either refused to return the books to movant or formally acknowledged that they do not have the books and thus cannot return them to movant. Although his institutional claim was "disapproved," the reason given for that outcome was a statement that the books were not missing and, implicitly, that they could be accessed by movant. Movant would have had no reason to appeal this result. The outcome of movant's grievance complaint further assured him that, so far as the prison was concerned, he had both the right and ability to access his property. It is possible, therefore, that unless and until prison officials either refuse to return the property to movant or acknowledge that they are unable to return the property to him, no bailment claim has yet accrued. Under these circumstances, movant might be well-advised to pursue another institutional claim, to exhaust all remedies associated with such a claim if it is denied, and then, if necessary, to file and serve a claim within 120 days of the date of such exhaustion.

January 6, 2003
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The following papers were read on movant's motion for permission to file an untimely claim
1. Notice of Motion and Supporting Affidavit of Willie Spirles, pro se. with annexed proposed claim and exhibits

2. Affirmation in Opposition of Eileen E. Bryant, annexed Exhibit

3. Reply affidavit of Willie Spirles, pro se

Filed papers: None