Aaron Taylor, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 100323 that
Defendant's agents wrongfully destroyed his personal property when he returned
from Fishkill Correctional Facility (hereafter Fishkill) to Wyoming Correctional
Facility (hereafter Wyoming). Trial of the matter was held at Fishkill on
February 21, 2003.
Claimant testified that between March 13, 1999 and March 17, 1999 he had been
at Fishkill for a proceeding in the Court of Claims. During that period, he had
a family visit, and received certain personal items through the package room.
, Claimant's Exhibits "2" & "3"]. He was packed up for his return
to Wyoming on March 17, 1999.
When he arrived at Wyoming, facility administrators determined he was not
allowed the additional personal items, and he was given the option of either
"destroying them, or donating them."
He indicated that he wanted the items shipped back to the person who sent them
at Claimant's expense. This preference was noted on a form he executed dated
March 18, 1999 listing 15 personal items for return to an individual in Jamaica,
New York. [Claimant's Exhibit "4"]. He stated that because he had selected a
preference for disposal of his property that had not been offered, and therefore
violated a correction officer's direct order, he was "written up for a
Found guilty of disobeying a direct order, "pursuant to Directive 4913 the food
and cigarettes were destroyed." Claimant pursued an appeal. The determination
was ultimately administratively reversed, and the records were expunged,
according to a New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter
DOCS) memorandum dated February 8, 2000. [Claimant's Exhibit "1"]. He then asked
for the return of his property - some of which was apparently returned - but
other items were "destroyed."
An inmate claim form admitted in evidence dated February 25, 2000 states that
the missing items were 9 packs of cigarettes, 3 different drink mixes, 1 bag of
chocolate kisses, 5 cans of Bumblebee tuna, 2 boxes of Pop Tarts, 3 boxes of
mixed party cakes, 1 jar of Folgers coffee. [Claimant's Exhibit "6"]. He asked
for reimbursement in the total amount of $52.00.
The Claim filed in this Court on May 10, 1999 asks for reimbursement for the
loss or destruction of 9 packs of cigarettes, 5 boxes of Garlics, 4 cans drink
mixes, 2 boxes Pop Tarts, 2 boxes of party cakes, 1 mayonnaise, 1 can Pringle
potato chips, 1 large can tuna, 1 package of crackers, 2 personal undershorts, 1
personal t-shirt, 1 nail clipper, 1 deck of cards, 1 net bag and 1 bag of Almond
Joys. He asks for reimbursement in the amount of $60.00.
It is noted that on the DOCS form executed on March 18, 1999 for return of his
property to the person who sent it the following items are listed: 9 packs of
cigarettes, 5 Garlics, 4 drink mixes, 2 Pop Tarts, 2 cakes, 1 mayo, 1 potato
chip, 1 tuna, 1 cracker, 2 coat hangers, 1 net bag, 1 deck of cards, 2 personal
undershorts, 1 personal shirt, 1 nail clipper. [Claimant's Exhibit "4"].
On cross-examination Claimant agreed that there were a lot of differences
between what was contained on each of the different forms on which he listed
property. He also acknowledged that it was his signature at the bottom of the
form executed March 18, 1999 authorizing DOCS to ship the property
, Claimant's Exhibit "4"]. Claimant explained that when he filled
out the Claim for this Court, he was relying on his memory, "giving a general
summation" of what was lost in an attempt to "file on time." The package room
receipts from Fishkill, he said, should "correlate with the items" he claims
were lost. "Some items", he asserted, "I was allowed to have, but the items
taken from me were the visit package items."
No receipts for any items were presented, nor was there testimony that the
items directed to be shipped did not reach their destination. No other
witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.
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
, 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 some personal
property items to DOCS custody and control, but gave a direction to DOCS that
the property be returned to the sender at Claimant's expense. [Claimant's
Exhibit "4"]. Claimant could only testify very generally that "some" property
was returned, and "some" destroyed, although he indicated that it was the
package room property that he ultimately never received. In reviewing the
package room receipt, it appears to the Court that these are the same items that
were included on the authorization Claimant executed directing their return to
the sender. [
.; Claimant's Exhibit "4" "2" and "3"].
While the Claimant appeared to be credible, there were internal inconsistencies
to his testimony. Thus, he has failed to establish, by clear and convincing
evidence, that the Defendant mishandled his property. Even assuming that some
property was destroyed rather than sent as he directed, Claimant has provided no
substantial evidence of value.
Accordingly, Claim Number 100323 is in all respects dismissed.
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.