In his filed claim, claimant alleges that the State is responsible for the loss
of certain items of his personal property, valued at
The trial of this claim was held at Marcy Correctional Facility on October 12,
2005, at which claimant was the only witness to testify.
As set forth in his claim and by his testimony at trial, claimant alleges that
certain items of his personal property were confiscated and/or destroyed during
an incident which occurred on July 18, 1997 at Mohawk Correctional
Facility, where claimant was then incarcerated. Following this incident,
claimant was transferred to Oneida Correctional Facility, and eventually
discovered the loss of these items on August 16, 1997, upon his subsequent
transfer to Auburn Correctional Facility. His claim, containing an itemized
list with values attached for each item, was filed with the Clerk of the Court
of Claims on March 6, 2000.
As a bailee of property, the State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal
Pollard v State of New York
, 173 AD2d 906). In order to establish a
case of negligence, a claimant must establish that the
property was delivered to the defendant, and that the defendant failed to return
it in the same condition. The defendant's refusal or inability to return the
bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence, and the burden
shifts to the defendant, which must then come forward with proof to overcome
this presumption (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp.
, 60 AD2d 550). At trial,
the State did not present any evidence whatsoever to rebut this presumption of
negligence (Singer Co. v Stott & Davis Motor Express
, 79 AD2d 227).
Rather, in his cross-examination of claimant, defendant's attorney took issue
with certain items included in his filed claim. Specifically, defendant
questioned the valuation of $15.00 for each of eight photographs, which claimant
testified had "sentimental value".
Defendant also questioned the fact that claimant included in his list a set of
false teeth (partial upper and lower plates) with a total value of $210.00.
With respect to value, a claimant has the burden to satisfy the Court of the
fair market value of the items in question (
Phillips v Catania
, 155 AD2d 866; Schaffner v Pierce
, 75 Misc 2d
21). In this particular matter, the Court acknowledges that it is extremely
difficult to assess a market value for photographs, which are personal to
claimant. Furthermore, aside from his testimony with regard to "sentimental
value", claimant did not offer any direct proof as to his valuation of these
photographs. As a result, although the Court finds that claimant has
satisfactorily established the loss of these photographs, the Court finds that
the appropriate measure of damages for the eight missing photographs is $40.00,
rather than the $120.00 sought by claimant.
With regard to claimant's loss of his dentures, defendant introduced medical
records establishing that as early as August, 1998, a dentist at Auburn
Correctional Facility recommended that claimant's partial dental plates be
replaced, "at State expense" (see Defendant's Exhibit A). From these records,
it appears that claimant, as an inmate in the custody of the Department of
Correctional Services, was entitled to receive dental care, including
replacement of his dentures, at no cost to him. Since claimant is still in the
custody of the Department of Correctional Services, it is the Court's opinion
that he may continue to avail himself of the dental care provided to inmates,
including replacement of his lost dentures, at no cost to him. Accordingly, no
award is made to claimant for the lost dentures set forth in his claim.
The Court has reviewed the listing of the remaining items particularized in
this claim, and finds that the amount sought by claimant for these items
represents fair market value.
Accordingly, after deducting the cost of the dentures, and making an
appropriate reduction in the amount sought for his lost photographs, the Court
hereby awards claimant the sum of $240.02 for his lost property. This award
shall carry appropriate interest from July 18, 1997 to
January 18, 1998 and then from March 6, 2000 to the date of this
decision, and thereafter to the date of entry of judgment herein. Furthermore,
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.