John Adams ("Claimant") filed claim number 102896 on August 11, 2000, alleging
that Defendant is responsible for the loss of Claimant's personal property
valued at $1,001.91. I held a trial on this matter on September 25, 2003, at
Auburn Correctional Facility ("Auburn").
Claimant testified that, on November 24, 1999, Auburn employees departed from
Department of Correctional Services Directive No. 4917 (Claimant's exhibit 2) in
processing his personal property for transfer to Upstate Correctional Facility
("Upstate"), resulting in the loss of personal property. On that day, according
to the Claimant, officers packed the contents of his cell into nine draft bags
and removed five of the bags prior to taking a break for lunch. They left four
draft bags in his cell at that time, intending to remove them after their break.
Whether this was accomplished is unknown, but there is no dispute that these
bags were not shipped to the Claimant with the five bags removed earlier.
The next morning, November 25, 1999, the officer in charge of processing inmate
property, Officer Nicholas K. DeAngelis, Jr., was contacted and affirmed that
the draft processing center would take care of Claimant's four remaining draft
bags. There was delay in the delivery of these four bags resulting in Claimant's
filing an initial administrative claim for all property contained in the bags.
That claim was denied, however, as Defendant determined that the bags had not
been lost, but were still in the process of being delivered. Claimant
ultimately filed this claim relating to property he claims was missing from the
four bags after he finally received them.
Claimant was unable to produce his personal inventory sheets ("I-64's") listing
the personal property in his possession immediately before and after the
transfer from Auburn to Upstate. Claimant testified that many legal documents
and all receipts had been lost in a subsequent transfer from Upstate to Attica
Correctional Facility ("Attica").
Claimant called Draft Process Supervisor Nicholas K. DeAngelis, Jr., the
officer identified above. Officer DeAngelis' duties involved processing for
transfer Claimant's property on the date in question. Officer DeAngelis
identified Department of Correctional Services Directive No. 4917 and testified
that it was in effect at the time in question. This document was submitted as
Claimant's exhibit 2. Officer DeAngelis then verified that four bags were
indeed left in the Claimant's cell at the time of his transfer. He also
admitted that it is not regular practice to break for lunch during the process
of packing an inmate's personal property, and that under normal procedures,
officers would not leave bags behind. He could offer no explanation as to why,
on this occasion, Claimant's property was not packed in accordance with
Directive No. 4917.
With regard to damages, Defendant was able to provide I-64's signed on August
15, 1992, when the Claimant arrived at Auburn (Defendant's exhibit B) and
February 21, 2000, when the Claimant arrived at Attica (Defendant's exhibit A).
Defendant also offered into evidence an Auburn Local Permit dated August 15,
1992 (Defendant's exhibit C), which indicates that Claimant possessed a Sony
tape deck valued by Claimant at $40.00. Additionally, the Defendant presented a
local permit for a radio, dated August 16, 1995, listing a new radio valued at
$23.98 (Defendant's exhibit D). The permit states that "inmates may NOT own
more than ONE radio, tape player or combination at any one time." Thus,
Defendant argues that Claimant may collect for the radio or tape player, but not
both. Defendant also argued that, although Claimant sought reimbursement for
two photo albums, both I-64's listed these items. Defendant also pointed out
that, despite Claimant's alleged loss of a typewriter, neither I-64 indicated
that Claimant owned a typewriter, and no local permit to have one had been
issued to Claimant at Auburn. Defendant argues that Claimant, therefore, could
not have had a typewriter at the time in question. Finally Defendant pointed
out that inmates are not permitted to possess more than ten packs of cigarettes
at any given time, and thus requested that the claim, which alleged a loss of 96
packs, be limited accordingly.
I find Claimant has established that his personal property was lost while in
Defendant's possession. Therefore, Defendant is liable to Claimant for the loss
of this property (
7 NYCRR § 1700.7; see also Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp.
AD2d 550). Claimant is entitled to recover from Defendant the fair market value
of the lost property (see Phillips v Catania
, 155 AD2d 866).
Although Claimant was not in possession of receipts with which to document the
precise value of the property, based upon Claimant's testimony and the other
evidence before this Court, I find that Claimant is entitled to an award of
$250.00 for his lost property, together with appropriate interest from January
10, 2000 to July 10, 2000 and from August 11, 2000 to the date of this decision
and thereafter to the date of entry of judgment, pursuant to CPLR 5001 and
To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant
to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2).