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
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
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.
., 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
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.