Claimant Victor Navarro filed this pro se claim sounding in bailment and
negligence on January 7, 2002. He alleges that defendant State of New York was
responsible for the spoilation of a food package that he had ordered from a
private vendor. The package, which contained among other things a roasted
chicken and bananas, had been received by Clinton Correctional Facility's
package room on June 14, 2001. The gravamen of claimant's claim and his
testimony at trial
was that staff at the correctional facility were negligent for failing to call
him down to get his package until June 18, 2001. By that time, not
surprisingly, the perishable items had spoiled. Claimant valued the food
package at $49.55.
The State's position at trial, as set forth in its motion to dismiss the claim,
upon which the Court reserved decision, is that claimant failed to exhaust his
administrative remedy pursuant to the requirement of Court of Claims Act
§10 (9), rendering the claim defective. Additionally, the State countered
claimant's rendition of the events leading up to the spoilation of his food
products by way of testimony from Sergeant Paul Champagne.
Sgt. Champagne testified that the facility's procedure for handling perishable
food shipments is essentially that inmates who receive such shipments do so at
their own risk. The facility does not have refrigeration in the package room,
and there is often a natural time lag between when an item arrives and when an
inmate is called down to retrieve it. As an example, he stated that a package
which does not arrive until after 12:00 P.M. on any given day usually cannot be
processed until the next day.
Based on Champagnes's explanation of the package distribution procedure, it
appears that in this instance, claimant was first called out to pick up his
package on Friday, June 15, 2001, the day after it had arrived (
Exh. B [as evidenced by his cell number, H-12-12]). Claimant
evidently did not appear at the package room on this day, and thus he was again
called out on the following Monday, June 18, 2001 (see
While the Court finds the credible evidence presented by the State more
convincing than claimant's mere assertion that he was not called to the package
room on June 15
th, such a determination is ultimately of little importance because the Court
finds that the claim is fatally infirm.
The Court of Claims Act requires that any "claim of [an] inmate . . . for
recovery of damages for injury to or loss of personal property may not be filed
unless and until the inmate has exhausted the personal property claims
administrative remedy, established for inmates by the department" (Court of
Claims Act § 10 ). This requires an inmate to follow the two-tier
system for handling personal property claims. This system consists of an
initial review and, if there is an unsatisfactory result at that level, an
administrative appeal. Both of these steps must take place before filing a
7 NYCRR §1700.3). Until both of these steps have been
completed, an inmate is statutorily precluded from filing a bailment claim in
the Court of Claims (see
Court of Claims Act § 10 ; Richards v
State of New York
, Ct Cl, August 3, 2000, Corbett, Jr. J., Claim No. 102440,
Motion No. M-61851 [UID No. 2000-005-526]; Christian v State of New
, Ct Cl, May 11, 2001, Midey, Jr. J., Claim No. 103806, Motion No.
M-63207 [UID No. 2001-009-024]).
The testimony of the State's witness, Account Clerk Joy Barcomv, as buttressed
by the Inmate Claim Form annexed to the claim, established that although
claimant availed himself of the first level of review, he never pursued an
appeal of the disapproval, as he was required to do before filing a claim in
this Court (
7 NYCRR 1700.3 (b)(1), (4). Claimant's equivocal response at trial
on this point leads the Court to credit the evidence proffered by the State and
disregard his testimony that he did appeal the first tier
Consequently, the Court now grants defendant's motion to dismiss the claim
based on claimant's failure to exhaust his administrative remedy as required by
Court of Claims Act § 10 (9) upon which it had reserved decision at trial.
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.