Matthew Hattley, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number
that Defendant's agents negligently lost or damaged his personal property while
he was an inmate 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. He
stated that while his property was packed up at Green Haven on December 27, 1999
for transfer to Upstate Correctional Facility, the transfer did not occur
immediately. On that date, his property was packed up outside of his presence,
and an I-64 form was completed to inventory his property. [
, Exhibit 1]. After moving within the facility, an additional I-64
form was completed on or about January 18, 2000, this time in his presence.
, Exhibit 2]. Claimant testified that this second I-64 form shows
that he had nine (9) photo albums, 50 "loose"
photographs, and four (4) bundles of legal papers - representing his legal
research over a period of seven (7) years on a pending case, as well as 171
pages of trial transcripts. A third I-64 form shows the inventory conducted at
Upstate. [Exhibit 3]. No legal papers are noted, nor are any photographs or
Claimant assigns a value of $42.75 for the trial transcripts (171 pages at $.25
per page); $2,000.00 for 200 personal photographs; and $28,925.00 for his legal
The final administrative determination of his facility claim was made on May
23, 2001. [Claim No. 104488, Exhibit H].
On cross-examination, he confirmed that the legal research fee was computed by
determining that for approximately 7 years he had spent 6.5 hours per day
working on his legal case, although he could not say that was the actual time
spent. He agreed that he had estimated the number of pages in the trial
transcript, knowing that there were five days of trial, and had purposely
underestimated the number of pages. The value for the photographs was based
upon having read somewhere that "$10.00 per personal photograph - otherwise
priceless materials - was fair."
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
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 certain personal
property items to New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter
DOCS) custody and control, and that some property was lost while in their
custody. The Court is satisfied that Claimant exhausted his administrative
, Court of Claims Act §10(9); 7 NYCRR Part 1700. The Claimant
presented as a credible witness, whose testimony was uncontradicted.
Unfortunately, only the trial transcripts can be assigned a value. The value of
any legal research is not compensable, [See e.g. Sinclair v State of
, Claim No. 98271, Lebous, J., June 27, 2001; Gagne v State of
, Claim No. 91472, Corbett, J., July 29, 1997], and as noted, the
photographs have no fair market value.
With regard to the cost of the trial transcript, however, Claimant's testimony
concerning the value, and his sworn statements in his duly verified Claim,
establish the total loss as $42.75.
Accordingly, Claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $42.75 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.