This claim was tried on September 25, 2002 at the Clinton Correctional Facility
("Clinton") in Dannemora, New York.
Claimant Joseph Wigfall filed this action,
, on December 15, 2000. This case involves two bailment causes of
action: one for a package of food left for claimant at Clinton by a non-visitor
and another for a package of forty packs of cigarettes delivered to Clinton by
the United States Postal Service. Claimant seeks $150.00 in damages for the food
and $50.00 in damages for the cigarettes.
On July 30, 2000, a hand-delivered food package was delivered to claimant from
a person who did not visit with him.
Claimant filed a grievance for this property on August 2, 2000 (Exhibit 14)
On August 10, 2000 a package
containing forty packs of cigarettes was delivered by the United States Postal
Service to Clinton for claimant (Claim, paragraph 2). Claimant was notified by
the package room that the limit on the amount of the cigarettes he could possess
had been reduced from forty to thirty packs and therefore he could only receive
thirty packs. On that same day, claimant filed an inmate grievance with respect
to the ten additional packs of cigarettes, arguing the he was never notified
about this new rule (Exhibit 3).
On August 14, 2000, claimant received a
memorandum from Deputy Superintendent for Security J. Wood, indicating
that he had two unauthorized packages in the Package Room which he had
failed to address. This memo stated that claimant had seven days to advise the
Package Room how he wished to dispose of these packages and that they would be
destroyed if he did not so advise (Exhibit 12). Claimant responded on August
16, 2000 when, in a letter addressed to the Package Room, he indicated that he
would like the food package sent home but that
he refused to pay for the
postage to do so "because it was your error in accepting the package, when you
already knew that unless an inmate has a visit, that no package could be
accepted for him." With respect to the cigarettes, he stated that he had not
been informed of the new regulation, had put in a grievance, and was awaiting
the decision (Exhibits 15 and 18).
On August 24, 2000, claimant received the following determination of the
Inmate Grievance Review Committee with respect to the grievance relating to the
Committee Advises Grievant, per investigation as of 7/1/00, Directive #4911,
Section (IV) (D) was amended to reflect a new total of three cartons per month,
or 100 cigars, or 24 ounces of loose tobacco. This information was also issued
in a memo dated 6/22/00.
Committee recommends to Supt., His memo dated
6/22/00, was not directed to be read over inmate radio, and for that reason
Grievant should be allowed to receive his remaining cigarettes. It is also
noted Grievant is housed in E-Block, and he is not allowed to read posting on
inmate bulletin boards. Supt. Memo dated 6/22/00, should be read over the
blocks PA system in E & D blocks where IPC, VPC & Keep locks are housed
to make them aware of this new policy.
On August 27, 2000 claimant wrote to the Inmate Grievance Program and the
Package Room informing them that it was his understanding that both his packages
had been destroyed. He asked both these entities
to indicate the authority under which the property was destroyed while the
grievances were still pending (Exhibits 14 and 19). The Committee's response,
dated August 30, 2000 (Exhibit 4), stated:
Committee advises Grievant that
the package in question has been destroyed by order of Dep. Woods. Committee
further advises Grievant that he may file a claim for package and/or
Claimant then submitted an inmate claim (Exhibit 1), asking for $210.00 in
compensation for the destroyed items: 10 packs of cigarettes and a 20 pound food
package. This claim was denied with the following statement: "Staff followed
proper procedure in destroying package. Inmate failed to respond to memo from
DSS J. Wood" (
Disposition of packages and articles brought or sent to correctional facilities
is governed by Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) Directive No. 4911.
Section 11(E) provides that visitors may bring packages on for the inmate that
they are visiting. With respect to items that inmates are not permitted to
receive, section II (I) provides:
Articles not permitted. If sent to the institution, will be returned at the
expense of the addressee or otherwise disposed of as requested by the inmate
within 14 days, after which it will be destroyed by the facility.
directive does not directly address the situation where prison officials have
taken custody of a package brought by a visitor for an inmate who could not
receive it because the visitor did not come to see him. In a somewhat
analogous situation, however, where packages are brought by visitors for inmates
who have been placed on "loss of package privileges,"the directive requires that
the package "shall be returned to the visitor at the conclusion of the visit"
(§[II][J]). This would suggest that the package brought for claimant,
should have been returned to the visitor rather than retained by prison staff.
Even if this was error on the part of the prison officials, however, it would
not give rise to a bailment claim on behalf of claimant. A bailment exists when
property is delivered from one person (the bailor) to another (the bailee) (9 NY
Jur 2d, Bailments and Chattel Leases, ¶ 1, p 9). The food package in
question was never possessed by claimant, and he never had the right to possess
it. The facility staff did not hold it on his behalf, therefore, and never had
a duty to turn it over to him on demand.
With respect to the cigarettes, however, claimant promptly and properly
responded to the August 14, 2000 memo from Deputy Superintendent Wood, by
indicating that he had filed a grievance relating to the cigarettes and was
waiting to learn its result. His grievance, which was decided on August 24,
2000, resulted in a determination that he should be allowed to receive his
remaining cigarettes. The subsequent denial of his facility claim for the
missing cigarettes, on the ground that he had failed to respond to the memo from
Deputy Superintendent Wood, was quite simply in error. Claimant is entitled to
recover the value of the ten packs of cigarettes that were withheld by prison
officials and improperly destroyed while the grievance was pending.
Claimant is entitled to judgment in the amount of $54.00,
with interest from August 24, 2000, the date on which the grievance was decided
and claimant had the right to possess his property (Heede Hoist and Machine
v Bayview Towers Apartments, Inc.
, 74 AD2d 598). To the
extent claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of
Claims Act §11-a(2).
Let judgment be entered accordingly.