New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

CONYERS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2004-031-509, Claim No. 106215


Synopsis


Case Information

UID:
2004-031-509
Claimant(s):
JOSEPH CONYERS
Claimant short name:
CONYERS
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
106215
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant's attorney:
JOSEPH CONYERS, PRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: JAMES L. GELORMINI, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 22, 2004
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Joseph Conyers ("Claimant") filed claim number 106215 on June 13, 2002, alleging that Defendant is responsible for the loss of Claimant's personal property valued at $1,618.33. I held a trial on this matter on September 9, 2003, at Wyoming Correctional Facility.

Claimant testified that on October 13, 2001, while incarcerated at Attica Correctional Facility, he left his cell at approximately 4:15 p.m. to go to dinner. He returned about 45 minutes later to find that there had been a fire in his cell. He alleges that, although the fire was confined to the top of his bed, his entire cell had been cleared of most of his personal property. He testified that his cell was locked at that time. According to Claimant, one of the correction officers must have staged the incident by letting other inmates into his cell to steal his property and set the fire. He stated that he believed this was in retaliation for two recent complaints Claimant had filed against correction officers.

Claimant received an Inmate Misbehavior Report for setting the fire, but stated that the disciplinary proceeding was dismissed after his administrative appeal.

Claimant did not call any witnesses. Claimant did offer, and I accepted into evidence, an affidavit from another inmate, Raymond Jackson. This document purports to support Claimant's contention that he did not set the fire in his own cell and that the fire was, in fact, set by other inmates. Despite Defendant's objection concerning the hearsay nature of this exhibit, I received this document into evidence for what it was worth. Although I would afford this document little evidentiary weight, in any event, I find that the document does not aid Claimant in his burden of proof in this matter. Claimant went to great lengths to demonstrate the fact that he alleged that he did not set the fire in his cell. While this may be true, it does not follow that the fire was set and Claimant's property taken by, or at the direction of, an agent of Defendant.

The State does have a duty to secure an inmate's personal property (
Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906). However, Claimant must first satisfy his burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence by demonstrating 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).
At the close of proof, Defendant moved to dismiss the claim on the basis that Claimant had failed to demonstrate a prima facie case. This motion, on which I reserved decision, I now grant. From the record before me, I find that Claimant has failed to demonstrate that either a bailment of his property was made to Defendant or that Claimant's property was stolen by Defendant. Based upon Claimant's testimony and the other evidence before this Court, I find that Defendant is not liable to Claimant for the loss of his property.

Accordingly, Claim No. 106215 is hereby
DISMISSED.
Any and all other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined, are hereby denied.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

March 22, 2004
Rochester, New York

HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of Claims