New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

PALMER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-019, Claim No. 104024


Pro se inmate's bailment claim granted in part.

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:
Defendant's attorney:
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
July 30, 2003
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Bobby H. Palmer, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim No. 104024 that defendant's agents negligently lost or destroyed his property upon his transfer from Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) to Eastern and Cayuga Correctional Facilities. Trial of the matter was held at Green Haven on June 13, 2003.

Claimant testified that on "January 5
th, 2000" while he "was imprisoned at Green Haven Correctional Facility he was keeplocked and immediately transferred to Eastern Correctional Facility overnight."[1] He asserted that his property was packed outside of his presence "at night time," itemized on an I-64 form, and that on January 13, 2000 only a portion of his property arrived at Cayuga Correctional Facility (hereafter Cayuga): his ultimate destination. Correction officers confirmed at the time that he was missing property, that some of the property was damaged, and that "somebody else's property was mixed up with" his. Claimant filed a facility claim at Cayuga [Exhibit 1]. It was denied on or about May 2, 2000. [Exhibit 3]. His appeal to the Superintendent was denied on or about May 8, 2000. [Exhibit 5]. Permission to late file his Claim with the Court of Claims was granted by Decision and Order filed February 15, 2001. [See, Palmer v State of New York, Claim No. 102584, Motion No. M-62048, Waldon J., February 15, 2001].
Claimant testified that although he signed the I-64 acknowledging receipt of the property at his destination, there were certain items he immediately noticed were missing, and these were noted by the supervising officer. [
See, Exhibit 8]. The notation indicates: "Inmate claims to be missing 18 photos, 1 AM/FM cassette radio, also claims to be missing 6 pouches tobacco, 2 sweat shirts, and 1 pair of shorts."
On cross-examination he admitted that he did not realize other items were missing as well, and could not quantify what food items were missing. He submitted several local permits showing his possession of a COTA cassette player valued at $25.50 in January, 1998; a Norelco beard trimmer, valued at $21.75 in September, 1997; a General Electric Super radio, valued at $41.75 in March, 1999; and a Lakewood fan, with no value referred to on the permit as of June, 1999, but given a value of $6.00 in the facility claim. [
See, Exhibit 7; Exhibit (A) to Claim No. 104024].
The facility claim lists various items - consistent with the local permits submitted by Claimant - and their values less depreciation. They are: the Norelco beard trimmer ($20.00); the Super Radio,($41.75); two sweatshirts ($26.00 each); short pants ($18.00); Cota Cassette player ($22.00); Lakewood fan ($6.00); Immerse heater ($4.75); canned goods ($50.00); and 18 photographs ($270.00).

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.
See generally 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 New York, 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 case of 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 1981).
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 v Pierce, 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 York, 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, and that some property was damaged or lost when he signed for its receipt. The Claimant presented as a credible witness, whose testimony was essentially uncontroverted. Unfortunately, Claimant could only testify very generally, although he was able to quantify his losses with respect to at least some of his property.

Together with claimant's testimony concerning the property lost, the total amount supported by the record - exclusive of the photographs and food - is $120.00. The credible evidence established the following values for his losses: $15.00 for the beard trimmer; $35.00 for the Super radio; $5.00 for the fan; $15.00 for the cassette player; $40.00 for two sweatshirts; and $10.00 for one pair of shorts.

Accordingly, the Claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $120.00 plus appropriate interest from January 13, 2000. The photographs - as personally meaningful to Claimant as they may have been - have no fair market value and no award is made for that loss. [
See, Benton v State of New York, Claim No. 94337, unreported Decision filed July 8, 1999, Collins, J., Page 4]. No evidence of the value of the food stuffs was presented.
It is ordered that 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.

July 30, 2003
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] All quotations are to trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.