New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

ELLIOTT v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-015-504, Claim No. 107356


Court dismissed claim following trial where claimant failed to prove that a bailment was created.

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:
Myles S. Elliott, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
Honorable Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General
By: Saul Aronson, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
January 31, 2005
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

The trial of this inmate bailment claim occurred at Great Meadow Correctional Facility on November 8, 2004.

Claimant was the sole witness at trial and testified that on June 19, 2002 while incarcerated at Great Meadow Correctional Facility he was involved in an altercation with another inmate as a result of which he was removed from his housing unit and placed in punitive segregation. On June 22, 2002 he was permitted to view his property to obtain those items allowed in the Special Housing Unit. Upon doing so claimant discovered that the majority of his personal property was missing. He pursued an administrative claim which was denied at both stages. Claimant estimated that the depreciated value of the missing property was $361.90.

On cross-examination claimant admitted that he had no documentary proof of purchase, that the missing property had not previously been inventoried on an I-64 form since Great Meadow was his one and only place of confinement by DOCS and that the missing items were either gifts obtained during visitation or were ordered from catalogues available within the facility. He alleged that any receipts for the missing property were lost or stolen along with his items of personal property.

To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction a claimant must show that his property was deposited with the defendant and was either lost or returned in a damaged condition (
Schibilia v Kiamesha Concord, 16 AD2d 504, 505). Once that is demonstrated, the burden shifts to the defendant to come forward with proof reasonably explaining the loss or damage. If defendant meets that obligation, it then becomes claimant's burden to prove the loss or damage was caused by the defendant's negligence (Sun Yau Ko v Lincoln Sav. Bank, 99 AD2d 943, affd 62 NY2d 938).
Here claimant offered no proof other than his testimony that his property was in his cell prior to his confinement in the SHU. He failed to offer any written acknowledgment of the defendant's receipt of the property or any proof of the property's condition or purported value at the time custody was allegedly transferred to DOCS.

Even if the Court were to fully credit the claimant's testimony regarding the creation of the bailment at the time of his confinement in the SHU (
see Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906) he has clearly failed at trial to prove damages. In a case such as this where property is not returned to the bailor he may prove damages through the introduction into evidence of an estimate of the cost to replace the property (see, Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866, Sealey v Meyers Parking Sys., 147 Misc 2d 217). No such proof was offered. Instead claimant merely alleged that his receipts were lost or stolen along with his other property. Moreover, since claimant failed to prove that a bailment occurred he may not recover nominal damages (see, Atlantic Mut. Ins. Co. v Noble Van & Storage Co., 146 AD2d 729). The claim is dismissed.
The Clerk is directed to enter a judgment in accord with this decision. All motions not previously determined are denied.

January 31, 2005
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims