Matthew Hattley, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim number
that Defendant's agents negligently lost or destroyed his property while he was
incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven).
Trial of the matter was held at Green Haven on June 20,
Claimant testified to essentially the same facts contained in his claim. On
December 27, 1999 he was removed from his cell "and taken to H-Block" at Green
Haven for "transfer to Upstate Correctional
The transfer did not occur at that time. Nonetheless, his property was removed
from his cell and packed up outside of his presence. "Seven days later, they
gave the property back to . . . [him]." It was repacked for transfer to Upstate
in January. When he inspected his property when he arrived at Upstate, "most of
it was damaged or missing."
A facility claim [Exhibit 1] was denied on or about March 22, 2000, and his
appeal to the Superintendent was denied on or about October 17, 2000. [
, Claim No. 104228, Exhibit 4]. A further administrative appeal was
denied on February 8, 2001 [Ibid
, Exhibit 6].
Items that Claimant alleges were damaged include a Smith Corona typewriter,
valued at $99.99 when new, and 4 years old at the time of the damage; a Pomair
electric fan, valued at $7.00 when new, and 5 years old at the time of the
damage; a Casio watch, valued at $18.00 when new, and 5 months old at the time
of the damage; and a Panasonic beard and mustache trimmer valued at $21.49 when
new, and 1 month old at the time of the damage. In terms of the specific damage
claimed, he indicates in his claim that the roller on the typewriter does not
turn or advance; the guard on the fan is completely crushed; the blades have
been removed from the beard trimmer; the function buttons on the watch do not
work; and the Koss headphones were "switched or replaced with ‘Coby'
headphones...[worth] $5.00." [Claim No. 104228, ¶6 E].
Twenty-nine additional items are claimed as lost, listed as follows together
with the claimed value when new: a Nouveau lamp ($6.00), 2 typewriter ribbons
($6.99), 2 storage boxes ($26.00), a sum adapter ($8.99), 9 boxer shorts
($23.25), a rug ($12.00), 7 cassette tapes ($59.50), Koss headphones ($27.99),
books and magazines ($260.00), legal transcripts ($0), an extension cord
($1.25), 2 packs playing cards ($3.60), 12 "AA" batteries ($3.66), 6 bars of
soap ($5.50), 4 toothbrushes ($1.53), baby oil ($.89), net bag ($2.50), mirror
($2.25), envelopes ($.79), sewing kit ($1.00), masking tape ($.79), insulated
mug ($4.50), nail clippers ($.60), tweezers ($1.00), ChapStick ($.33), Colgate
toothpaste ($1.20), 25 pens and mechanical pencils ($10.00), religious medal
($15.00), variety of food and beverages ($90.00). [Exhibit 1].
An I-64 form appended to the Claim indicates that on December 27, 1999, five
(5) bags in total were packed - there is a four (4) bag limit - outside of
Claimant's presence. [Claim No. 104228, Exhibit 1]. Another attached I-64 form,
dated January 18, 2000, itemizes the property returned - and inventoried again
for transfer to Upstate - while Claimant was still at Green Haven. [
]. This form appears to have been completed in Claimant's presence.
Finally, an I-64 form dated January 20, 2000 gives an inventory of items
received when Claimant was transferred to Upstate. [Claim No. 104288, Exhibit
2]. From the trial testimony, it was unclear whether Claimant alleges that the
loss of the bulk of the claimed property occurred while he was still at Green
Haven or only upon his transfer to Upstate.
Claimant produced package room receipts for food stuffs received at Green Haven
on December 5, 1999, four magazines received on September 15, 1999 (no value
given), and a Panasonic beard trimmer received on November 3, 1999. [Exhibit 2].
A local permit dated November 3, 1999 also confirms the receipt of the Panasonic
beard trimmer on November 3, 1999. He furnished a receipt for a replacement
beard trimmer and replacement headphones showing respective purchase prices of
$21.99 and $9.29, in May, 2000. [Exhibit 4].
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.
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
, 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
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
, 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 certain personal
property items to New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter
DOCS) custody and control, and that some property was lost or damaged while in
their custody. The Court is satisfied that Claimant exhausted his
, Court of Claims Act §10(9); 7 NYCRR Part 1700. The Claimant
presented as a credible witness, whose testimony was uncontradicted.
Unfortunately, he was not able to submit many receipts to establish value, nor
did he testify with any detail concerning the value of items lost or damaged.
Nonetheless, Claimant's testimony concerning the value of the property lost or
damaged, the sworn statements in his duly verified Claim, as well as the
receipts presented, establish the total loss as $130.00, inclusive of
depreciation. This represents his loss for the damaged property, to wit: the
typewriter, the fan, the beard trimmer, the lamp and the headphones. Most items
were more than one (1) year old at the time of the loss, thus depreciation is
fairly applied to arrive at fair market value as required.
See Schaffner v Pierce
With respect to the balance of the items claimed, the element of delivery is
not established, nor did Claimant establish exactly what property came under
DOCS custody and control.
Accordingly, Claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $130.00 plus
appropriate interest from January 20, 2000 [State Finance Law §16; Civil
Practice Law and Rules §5004].
It is ordered that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be
recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.