New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

RAMPERSANT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-030-032, Claim No. 105655


Pro se inmate's bailment claim dismissed after trial

Case Information

DELMAR RAMPERSANT The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper Defendant.
Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :
The caption has been amended to reflect the only proper Defendant.
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 13, 2003
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Delmar Rampersant, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 105655 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 "on June 16, 2001 . . . [he] was packed up and transferred to SHU [special housing unit] at Sing Sing."[1]
He was allowed to shop at the commissary, on or about July 3, 2001, and had purchased some items but when the items came from the commissary, he was not allowed to take the items to SHU. His wedding band had been in his cell when he was packed up for SHU. Then, "about July 25th or 26th" he was transferred to Southport Correctional Facility (hereafter Southport) and his wedding band and commissary property were "confiscated." He stated the value of the wedding band was $125.00, and the value of the commissary items was $35.00. He indicated that he did not know what property was missing until after he arrived at Southport.
Claimant filed a facility claim at Southport, which was denied for untimeliness, lack of receipts, as well as the rationale that the wedding band had been properly seized as contraband, and that some of the items on the I-64 inventory form taken at Sing Sing, were still present on the I-64 inventory form completed at Southport. [
Exhibit 1]. His appeal to the Superintendent was also denied. [Exhibit 4].
In the facility claim Claimant gave the value of the wedding band as $75.00, [
Exhibit 1], and indicated that the commissary items were not included on the I-64 inventory form because the items came on the day he went to SHU. Claimant produced a local permit from Sing Sing for the wedding band dated October 10, 2000, containing no monetary value [Exhibit 1]; as well as a receipt from the Sing Sing commissary dated July 5, 2001 showing purchases in the amount of $35.47 [Exhibit 2] and a copy of the Sing Sing commissary "buy sheet" form showing the items purchased on July 3, 2001 [Exhibit 3]. Despite the different dates on the commissary form, and the receipt, the items listed reflect the same purchases.
No I-64 inventory forms were presented in evidence, or attached to the Claim.

On cross-examination Claimant conceded that his wedding band had been confiscated as "contraband", and he had received a contraband receipt for the item. [
Exhibit A]. The reason given on the contraband receipt for the seizure is that the ring did not contain his identification number. [Id]. Claimant stated there is no departmental directive requiring that a wedding ring be marked with the inmate's identification number, and that the rationale given on the receipt was "just to put something down." He reiterated that he had a permit for the ring. He would not concede that he could have eaten the various food items listed on the commissary receipt because he stated again that he never received the commissary items in the first instance.
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 (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].
New York State Department of Correctional Services (hereafter DOCS) regulations list generally the kinds of property inmates are allowed to receive through the package room, and indicate as well which items require permits. [
See 7 NYCRR §§724.3 and 724.4]. Wedding bands are allowable items [7 NYCRR §724.4(h)(29)]. The regulation ". . . does not set forth a comprehensive list of all items that an inmate may be authorized to have." [7 NYCRR §724.1]. It does appear to have served as a guideline, however, for what items may be authorized. See e.g. Ventimiglia v State of New York, Claim No. 102952, Sise, J., February 6, 2002.
In this case, Claimant possessed a permit for the wedding band, and has established that it was taken into DOCS custody and not returned. Defendant has not shown in turn that the ring was contraband properly seized. Claimant has not, however, established the fair market value or age of the ring. With respect to the commissary items, it has not been established that there was delivery into DOCS' custody: it is unclear when and if such delivery occurred since Claimant first testified to being taken to SHU on June 16, 2001, and these purchases are shown as occurring in early July, 2001. There are simply internal inconsistencies to the facts asserted. Thus, Claimant has not established by a preponderance of the credible evidence his bailment cause of action with respect to all items claimed.

Accordingly, Claim Number 105655 is in all respects dismissed.

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

August 13, 2003
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

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