New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

NAVARRO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2002-032-526, Claim No. 105436


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2002-032-526
Claimant(s):
VICTOR NAVARRO
Claimant short name:
NAVARRO
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
105436
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
JUDITH A. HARD
Claimant's attorney:
Victor Navarro, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney General
By: Belinda A. Wagner, Assistant Attorney General,Of Counsel
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 30, 2003
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
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[1]
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 (
see 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 Exh. C).
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 [9]). 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 claim (
see 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 [9]; 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 York, Ct Cl, May 11, 2001, Midey, Jr. J., Claim No. 103806, Motion No. M-63207 [UID No. 2001-009-024]).[2]
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 (
see 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 determination.[3]
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.






December 30, 2003
Albany, New York

HON. JUDITH A. HARD
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]This claim was tried via video conference from the Clinton Correctional Facility.
[2]These and many other decisions of the New York State Court of Claims are available on its website (
[3]It is noted that claimant's first response to the question of whether he had appealed the denial of his administrative claim was that he did not know, which thereafter changed to the position that he had. Based on his own Inmate Claim Form, however, this testimony is unsupported.