New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GILES v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-009-133, Claim No. 103647


Synopsis


Claimant, proceeding pro se, was awarded the sum of $313.13 on his bailment claim, and was also awarded $250 on his claim for wrongful confinement, which occurred when he was restricted to his cell in violation of a Federal Court order.

Case Information

UID:
2004-009-133
Claimant(s):
JAMES GILES The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Claimant short name:
GILES
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court, sua sponte, has amended the caption to reflect the State of New York as the only proper defendant before this Court.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
103647
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Claimant's attorney:
JAMES GILES, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General
BY: Joel L. Marmelstein, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
December 6, 2004
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

In this claim, claimant, proceeding pro se, has alleged two separate causes of action against the State, both occurring when claimant was an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services. In his first cause of action, claimant alleges negligence against the State in losing certain items of his personal property when he was transferred from Marcy Correctional Facility to Auburn Correctional Facility in December, 1998. In his second cause of action, claimant alleges that while incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility, he was illegally confined to his cell for a period of ten days.

The trial of this claim was held at Marcy Correctional Facility on August 12, 2004.[1] At trial, claimant testified that he was transferred from Marcy Correctional Facility to Auburn Correctional Facility on December 28, 1998. At the time of this transfer, claimant's belongings were packed into ten bags. According to this claim, four bags were to accompany claimant to Auburn Correctional Facility, with the remaining six bags to be mailed separately. As alleged in his claim, only two bags were shipped with claimant, and eventually seven bags arrived by mail, leaving one bag missing which was never found.

In his claim, claimant listed, with particularity, 26 items which were lost, for which he is seeking the sum of $330.13 in damages for the value of these items. Additionally, claimant seeks $150.00 for emotional stress and mental anguish.

As a bailee of property, the State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906). In order to establish a prima facie case of negligence, a claimant must establish that the property was delivered to the defendant, and that the defendant failed to return it in the same condition. The State's refusal or inability to return the bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence, and the burden shifts to the defendant, which must then come forward with proof to overcome this presumption (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). At trial, the State failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut this presumption of negligence in this instance (Singer Co. v Stott & Davis Motor Express, 79 AD2d 227).

Accordingly, based upon his testimony and the filed claim, the Court finds that claimant has established that the designated items of his personal property were lost while in the possession of the State, and that the State is therefore liable to claimant for the loss of this property. Claimant testified that the items which were lost in transit had a total value of $330.13, and that a value for each item was particularized in his filed claim. The Court has reviewed this listing, and finds that claimant has made an appropriate reduction for depreciation in each instance. Therefore, based upon the evidence before the Court, the Court finds that the total value of the items lost is $330.13. Claimant, however, is not entitled to any award for emotional stress and mental anguish.

Within his claim, claimant also seeks damages for wrongful confinement, allegedly occurring when claimant was incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility. Claimant testified that he was confined to his cell for a period of ten days for refusing to take a PPD (purified protein derivative) test for tuberculosis infection. This refusal occurred on January 11, 1999. Claimant, however, had previously obtained injunctive relief in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, prohibiting the Department of Correctional Services from placing claimant "in medical keeplock or hav[ing] his status otherwise changed for the remainder of his sentence" for refusing to take such tests. (See Exhibit No. 2 to filed claim, "Stipulation and Order", [Giles v Thomas A. Coughlin, III, et al., 95 Civ. 3033 (JFK), dated March 1, 1996]). Claimant testified that notwithstanding the terms of this Stipulation and Order, he was illegally confined to his cell at Auburn Correctional Facility for a period of ten days.

At trial, claimant did not establish that personnel at Auburn Correctional Facility had direct knowledge of the federal court order prohibiting medical keeplock, or that a copy of this order had been made a part of his medical records. Nevertheless, this Court finds that Department of Correctional Services personnel had an obligation to insure that such important information pertaining to claimant's medical care and treatment be included within his medical records. Furthermore, the Court believes that the same employees who confined claimant to his cell could have confirmed his contentions, with minimal time and effort, in a matter of hours, not days.

Accordingly, this Court finds that the State must be held liable for the confinement of claimant to his cell in direct violation of the terms of the Federal Court order. The Court finds that claimant should be awarded $25.00 for each day of his illegal confinement. Since claimant's testimony established that he had been restricted to his cell for a total of ten days, claimant is therefore awarded the sum of $250.00 on this cause of action.

Accordingly, based upon the foregoing, claimant is entitled to an award of $330.13 for his lost property claim, together with appropriate interest from December 28, 1998 (the date of his transfer), and the sum of $250.00 on his claim for wrongful confinement, without interest, for a total award of $580.13, plus interest as provided herein. Furthermore, to the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

December 6, 2004
Syracuse, New York

HON. NICHOLAS V. MIDEY JR.
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1] The trial of this claim was originally scheduled for June 18, 2003, but was adjourned when the Department of Correctional Services failed to timely deliver claimant's legal papers for the trial.