New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

HATTLEY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-023, Claim No. 104488


Pro se inmate's bailment claim granted in part. Cost of trial transcript.

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:
August 1, 2003
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Matthew Hattley, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 104488[1]
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, 2003.
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. [
See, 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. [See, Exhibit 2]. Claimant testified that this second I-64 form shows that he had nine (9) photo albums, 50 "loose"[2] 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 photograph albums.
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 research documents.

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 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 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 remedies.
See, 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 New York, Claim No. 98271, Lebous, J., June 27, 2001; Gagne v State of New York, 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.

August 1, 2003
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1] This Claim arises out of the same facts and circumstances alleged in Claim Number 104228 although it seeks recovery for different items of property. A Decision on that Claim has been rendered as well.
[2] All quotations are to trial notes or audiotapes unless otherwise indicated.