New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

VAUGHAN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-009-014, Claim No. 108957, Motion No. M-69153


Claimant's motion for summary judgment (on the bailment cause of action) and striking an Affirmative Defense was granted, in part.

Case Information

Claimant short name:
Footnote (claimant name) :

Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):

Claimant's attorney:
Defendant's attorney:
Attorney General
BY: G. Lawrence Dillon, Esq.,
Assistant Attorney GeneralOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
March 1, 2005

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant has brought this motion seeking an order striking the First Affirmative Defense asserted by the defendant in its Verified Answer, as well as for an order granting him summary judgment on the issue of liability.

The following papers were considered by the Court in connection with this motion:
Notice of Motion, Affidavit in Support, Memorandum of Law, Statement of Material Facts, with Exhibits 1,2,3,4

Defendant's Response 5

Claimant's Reply 6

In his response to this motion, defendant's attorney has voluntarily withdrawn the First Affirmative Defense raised in the defendant's Verified Answer. Claimant's motion to dismiss this defense, therefore, has been rendered moot.

The Court must therefore address claimant's request for an order granting him summary judgment as to liability on this claim. In his filed claim, claimant seeks damages in the amount of $43.24, based upon the alleged loss of certain items of personal property while he was incarcerated at Marcy Correctional Facility. Claimant alleges that correction officers failed to properly secure his personal property when he was taken from his housing unit to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) on August 15, 2003. The State contends, in response, that an issue of fact exists as to whether claimant had properly secured his belongings prior to his transfer to SHU.

The rules governing summary judgment are well established. To begin with, a proponent for summary judgment must initially make a prima facie showing that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, with sufficient evidence eliminating any material issues of fact (Winegrad v New York University Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851). The entitlement to judgment must be made "by producing evidentiary proof in admissible form" (Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 562). Summary judgment should not be granted if there is any doubt as to the existence of a material issue of fact (Sillman v Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 3 NY2d 395; Moskowitz v Garlock, 23 AD2d 943). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court's function is to therefore determine if an issue of material fact exists, and in doing so, the Court must examine the proof in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Only bona fide issues of fact, however, are sufficient to defeat an application for summary judgment (Rotuba Extruders v Ceppos, 46 NY2d 223).

As stated above, this claim involves a bailment, in which claimant alleges that the State was negligent in failing to properly secure certain items of his personal property when he was taken to SHU on August 15, 2003. Claimant has established, without contradiction, that he was in possession of these items of personal property when he was taken to SHU, and that these items were missing from his belongings when he was provided the opportunity to inventory his property later that same day.

At the time he was taken to SHU, and upon direction, claimant provided one of the correction officers with the combination for the lock that was on his locker, so that all of his property could be packed and stored. It is claimant's contention that all of the missing items set forth in his claim had been secured by him in this locker. Defendant, however, contends that in addition to the items stored by claimant in his locker, claimant also possessed additional items of personal property which were stored under his bed, and that the State should not be held liable if claimant had left the missing items unsecured.

Claimant has produced Directive #4934, titled "Inmate Property - Temporary Storage of Personal Belongings", which provides guidelines for the temporary securing and storing of personal property when an inmate is moved to a hospital or special housing unit. In these situations, when an inmate is not able to move his or her personal belongings, a correction officer must "[t]ake immediate steps to protect the inmate's personal property by securing the cell/cube." In this instance, defendant, therefore, had an obligation not only to collect, secure, and store personal property which claimant had placed in his secure locker, but also had a duty to collect, secure, and store all of the inmate's personal property, wherever it was situated in his cube, upon his transfer to SHU.

Since the State has an affirmative duty to secure an inmate's personal property (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906), and since claimant's evidence establishes that the State failed to immediately secure all of claimant's personal property in this instance, claimant has satisfied his burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence. Based upon the affirmative duty placed on the State by Directive #4934, it is immaterial in this instance whether claimant's missing items were located in his locker or elsewhere in his cube. The State has therefore failed to come forward with any evidence to raise a bona fide issue of fact as to the State's obligation in this matter.

Based on the foregoing, therefore, claimant is entitled to an order granting him summary judgment on the issue of liability as to the missing items set forth in paragraph 21 of his claim. With respect to value, claimant must still satisfy the Court as to the fair market value of these items (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866), and therefore, at its next available pro se trial term conducted at Marcy Correctional Facility, this Court will schedule this matter for a trial limited to the issue of damages.

Additionally, this Court notes that, claimant also seeks compensation for the denial of access to his lost religious materials (see par. 22 of claim). Since neither party addressed this aspect of the claim in any of the papers submitted on this motion, the Court herein makes no determination as to the State's liability, or the amount of damages, if any, pertaining to this cause of action.

Accordingly, based on the foregoing, it is

ORDERED, that Motion No. M-69153 is hereby GRANTED, in part, and the Clerk of the Court is hereby directed to enter an interlocutory judgment in favor of the claimant and against the defendant on the issue of liability for the loss of the items of personal property as set forth in his claim; and it is further

ORDERED, that the issue of damages shall be addressed by this Court at a trial to be conducted at its next scheduled prison trial term. Claimant will be notified of the date and time of this trial by the Clerk of the Court of Claims in Albany once it is scheduled.

March 1, 2005
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims