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
. 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."
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.
. 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
, 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
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
, 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.
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.