New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FELIX v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK , #2004-030-018, Claim No. 107522


Case Information

DONALD FELIX 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:
June 28, 2004
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Donald Felix, the Claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 107522 that Defendant's agents negligently lost his property while he was incarcerated at Downstate Correctional Facility (hereafter Downstate). Trial of the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on April 23, 2004.

Claimant testified that he was mailed two packages while he was at Downstate by Tiffany Mattocks on September 25, 2002 and on November 7, 2002, respectively. He alleges he did not receive either one. Claimant filed facility claims with respect to both packages that were both denied. [Exhibit 1]. With respect to the items from September 25, 2002, the Superintendent writes: "Computer records indicate grievant received a package on 9/25/02 receiving all contents. As grievant's permanent package room file cannot be located, specific items cannot be verified."
[Ibid]. With respect to the items from November 7, 2002, the Superintendent writes: "As grievant's package room file cannot be located, specific items included in the 11/17/02 package cannot be verified." [Ibid].
In an affidavit appended to his claim, Ms. Mattocks indicates that on September 23, 2002 and November 5, 2002, respectively, she mailed packages to Claimant and lists the contents of same.
[Ibid]. The first package contained ten (10) packs of Newport cigarettes valued at $65.00; four (4) Lever 2000 soaps valued at $4.00; and four (4) Mitchum deodorants valued at $13.08. The total value for the first package is asserted as $82.08.
The second package contained two (2) packs of soft batch cookies valued at $6.00; four (4) cans of tuna valued at $6.00; four (4) cans of chunky soup valued at $10.36; two (2) boxes of hot chocolate valued at $1.98; five (5) bars of Lever 2000 soap valued at $5.00; one (1) lotion valued at $2.49; two (2) baby oils valued at $1.98; ten (10) packs of Newport cigarettes valued at $65.00; one (1) pitcher for mixing drinks valued at $2.99; two (2) Tubewear bowls valued at $5.18; package of ten (10) plastic plates valued at $2.50; five (5) Jumbo cups valued at $1.25; and one (1) large 4-C iced tea mix valued at $5.99. The total value for this second package is given as $93.36.

Claimant reiterated on cross-examination that he was not called down to the package room to sign for either of the packages, but knows the contents based upon communication with the sender. Receipts from the United States Postal Service indicate that a package was delivered to Downstate to his attention on November 7, 2002 [Exhibit 1]. There are no United States Postal Service receipts provided for with regard to the September 25, 2002 package.

No other witnesses testified and no other real evidence was received.

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 (NY Dist. Ct. 1973). Receipts are the best evidence of fair market value, although uncontradicted testimony concerning replacement value may also be acceptable.
In this case, Claimant has established that personal property was delivered to the New York State Department of Correctional Services' (hereafter DOCS) custody and control, and that at least 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 somewhat corroborated, at least with respect to the second package delivered on November 7, 2002. A receipt from the United States Postal Service shows that a package was delivered to Downstate and signed for. The memorandum denying Claimant's facility claim says only that records maintained by the facility cannot be located. Such recordkeeping failures should not be chargeable to Claimant.
With respect to the first package sent in September, however, the memorandum denying Claimant's facility claim states, in contrast, that the computer records reflect receipt in the package room of a package, and that the contents were given to Claimant. The alleged September loss is not established by a preponderance of the credible evidence.

With respect to the alleged property loss alleged in November, 2002, however, the Court is satisfied that the package was last in the custody of DOCS, as shown by independent receipts from the United States Postal Service, Ms. Mattocks' sworn statement, as well as Claimant's sworn statements, and that there is no explanation for Defendant's failure to produce the property. Claimant's sworn statements concerning the value of the lost property, and the sworn statement of Ms. Mattocks, satisfy the Court as to value, and establish the total loss as $93.36 .

Accordingly, Claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $93.36 plus statutory interest [§16 State Finance Law; § 5004 Civil Practice Law and Rules], which the Court finds presumptively reasonable, from the date of accrual of November 7, 2002 to the date of this Decision, and thereafter to the date of the entry of judgment pursuant to §§ 5001 and 5002 Civil Practice Law and Rules.

It is 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).

Let Judgment be entered accordingly.

June 28, 2004
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims