New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ORTIZ v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-029, Claim No. 106172


Pro se inmate's bailment claim dismissed.

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 11, 2003
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Victor Ortiz, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim number 106172 that Defendant's agents negligently lost or destroyed his property while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility (hereafter Sing Sing). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing on June 27, 2003.

Claimant testified that he was transferred from Sing Sing "to SHU in Malone"[1]
on December 7, 2001, arriving with only one (1) bag of property when there should have been four (4) bags. He stated he did not discover that any property was missing until after he had signed the I-64 inventory forms acknowledging receipt of his property. [See, Exhibits 4 and 5]. He asked for reimbursement for personal photos, a military jacket ($55.00), a pair of sneakers ($49.00), a mustache trimmer ($23.00), a hot pot ($14.00), a fan ($16.00); a blanket ($43.00); thermal underwear ($40.00); boots ($50.00); a scarf and pair of gloves ($24.00); a radio ($50.00); and a cap ($8.00). He provided three (3) local permits, all dated October 11, 2001, for, respectively, a West Bend hot pot valued for $14.25 [Exhibit 1]; a Norelco beard and mustache trimmer valued for $19.75 [Exhibit 2]; and a Holmes fan valued for $10.75 [Exhibit 3].
On cross-examination, Claimant indicated that he had filed two facility claims: one at Green Haven Correctional Facility (hereafter Green Haven) - where he had been "transferred after Malone" - and one at Sing Sing. When he filed at Green Haven in March, 2002, he was told it was "too late" and that he should pursue his claim at Sing Sing. The Sing Sing claim was denied as well, for failure to attach receipts, but Claimant indicated he was unable to obtain copies of receipts. It is unclear when any facility claim may have been filed at Sing Sing, and no copies of any facility claims were offered in evidence.

There is some confusion in the Claimant's narration. An I-64 completed on December 7, 2001 appears to reflect a transfer within Sing Sing to Special Housing Unit (hereafter SHU), and is more consistent with the facts asserted in the Claim. [
See, Exhibit 6]. In his Claim, he indicates that he was held in SHU from December 6, 2001 to February 17, 2002. There is no mention of a move to Malone. Reviewing the I-64 forms submitted only adds to the confusion. The only one referable to Sing Sing is the I-64 dated December 7, 2001, noted above, that reflects the internal transfer. The other two I-64 forms are dated March 6, 2002 and concern a move from Upstate to Green Haven. [Exhibits 4 and 5].
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 (New York 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 not established by a preponderance of the credible evidence that a bailment was created in the first instance. Assuming that the I-64 form dated December 7, 2001 reflects any property delivered into the custody of the Defendant's agents, there is no objective showing that such property was not returned. [Exhibit 6]. The subsequent I-64 forms are not pertinent to this Claim. [See, Exhibits 4 and 5].

Accordingly, Claim Number 106172 is hereby dismissed in its entirety.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

August 11, 2003
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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