New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WEST v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2003-031-508, Claim No. 102071


Prisoner - bailment - claimant established liability of the State of the loss of personal property. Claim granted in the amount of $85.00.

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:
New York State Attorney General
BY: WILLIAM D. LONERGAN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
May 19, 2003

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Gareth West ("Claimant") filed claim number 102071 on March 7, 2000, alleging that Defendant is responsible for the loss of Claimant's personal property valued at $312.00. I held a trial on this matter on March 12, 2003, at Wende Correctional Facility.

Claimant testified that on March 9, 1999, he was placed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") for a disciplinary matter unrelated to this claim. On August 25, 1999, he was informed that several items of his personal property had been damaged or destroyed in a flood of the facility basement. Claimant alleges that, although Defendant admitted that certain items were destroyed, Claimant was not permitted to inventory all his property to determine if anything not identified by Defendant had also been damaged, or destroyed. Claimant refused Defendant's offer of $18 for the property that was admittedly ruined.

Claimant was released from SHU on January 9, 2000, at which point he was able to inventory the rest of his property and determine that much more had been damaged than initially admitted by Defendant.

Defendant does not dispute that certain items of Claimant's personal property were damaged or destroyed while in Defendant's possession. Defendant argues, however, that the value of the property is not as great as Claimant represents, and that some of the items listed by Claimant were not, in fact, destroyed.

The State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property
( Pollard v State of
New York, 173 AD2d 906). Claimant's burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence is satisfied once he demonstrates the delivery of property to Defendant, and the Defendant's failure to return it in the same condition. The burden then shifts to Defendant to come forward with evidence to "overcome the presumption" (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). "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 . . ."(Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., Inc., 79 AD2d 1049,1050)(citation omitted).
I find, therefore, that Defendant is liable to Claimant for the loss of this property (
see 7 NYCRR 1700.7; see also Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). Claimant is entitled to recover the fair market value of the lost property (see Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866).
Claimant testified that an I-64 form was prepared by Defendant after he was taken to SHU. This document would, ostensibly, set forth all the property in Claimant's possession at the time of the incident. However, Claimant was unable to submit a copy of his I-64 Form at trial. He asserted that this document had been confiscated by Defendant, along with his damaged property, and subsequently destroyed. As of the time of the trial, Claimant had been unable to obtain a copy of this document from Defendant. A copy of this document was submitted by Claimant after the trial, but it does not appear that Defendant was copied in on this submission and, therefore, I can not accept this document into evidence, nor can I consider it in rendering this decision. To establish the value of his missing property, Claimant submitted a list of missing items (Ex. 1), and provided uncontroverted oral testimony about the items that were destroyed.

Based upon Claimant's testimony and the other evidence before this Court, Claimant is entitled to an award of $85.00 for his lost property, together with the appropriate interest from January 9, 2000 until the date of this decision and, thereafter, to the date of entry of judgment pursuant to CPLR 5001 and 5002. It is further ordered that, to the extent that Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).


May 19, 2003
Rochester, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims