New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WRIGHT v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2005-018-481, Claim No. 108119


Synopsis


Claimant successfully established that he was directed to leave his cube without an opportunity to secure his personal property.

Case Information

UID:
2005-018-481
Claimant(s):
MELVIN WRIGHT
Claimant short name:
WRIGHT
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108119
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Claimant's attorney:
MELVIN WRIGHTPRO SE
Defendant's attorney:
ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: HEATHER R. RUBINSTEIN, ESQUIREAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
August 15, 2005
City:
Syracuse
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
This is a bailment claim arising at Riverview Correctional Facility on June 3, 2003.[1]
Claimant testified that the morning of June 3, 2003, a sergeant and a correction officer came to his dormitory and escorted him to the tier hearing office. He had just dressed but hadn't cleaned up. He said the sergeant searched and handcuffed him and took him to the tier hearing office without allowing him to lock his locker, leaving his property unsecured.
Claimant was taken to the Special Housing Unit (hereinafter SHU) from the tier hearing office and his property was moved there later. He was shown his I-64 form, listing his packed property, and he noted that items were missing. He filed an administrative claim on June 4, 2003,[2]
which claim was denied on June 30, 2003. Claimant appealed and the appeal review was disapproved on July 9, 2003, exhausting Claimant's administrative remedies. This claim was filed on August 8, 2003. Claimant included in this claim additional items not reflected on the certified copy of the administrative claim admitted into evidence.[3] Claimant testified that he later added to the administrative claim. Since Claimant's administrative remedies were not exhausted for the additional items, as reflected on Exhibit A, those items were not considered by the Court. Claimant submitted his I-64's[4] in support of his claim as well as receipts[5] for purchases he made in the year 2000.
The I-64 form dated June 3, 2003, Claimant had signed, although he testified he did so without inventorying his property. He did not sign the acknowledgment on June 4, 2003, when his property was being delivered to SHU because he knew some property was missing.

The State called Correction Officer (hereinafter C.O.) Thomas McGrath who was working in Claimant's dorm on June 3, 2003 as the housing unit officer. He does not recall who the officers were who went to get Claimant but he saw them leave the area. After C.O. McGrath learned Claimant was being moved to SHU, he secured Claimant's property in his cube with a State lock. He could not recall whether Claimant's locker was locked when he arrived at his cube. He testified that it is the facility's policy to allow an inmate to secure his property if requested to do so.

On cross-examination, C.O. McGrath said he could not recall how much time elapsed between the time Claimant was taken off the dorm and the time he secured Claimant's property; nor was he specifically watching over Claimant's property.

C.O. Daniel Harris also testified on behalf of the State. He and other officers were assigned to pack Claimant's belongings after C.O. McGrath had secured the cube. Everything in the locker was packed and taken to SHU. The items were inventoried and recorded on the I-64 form. He believes that the property listed on it was all personal, and that the State-issued property goes on another form. He did not know if anything happened to Claimant's property between the time Claimant was removed from the dorm and when C.O. McGrath secured his property.

To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction, Claimant must show that his property was deposited with the Defendant and the Defendant failed to return it (
Weinberg v D-M Rest Corp., 60 AD2d 550). Once Claimant meets his burden, Defendant must come forward with proof explaining the loss (Matter of Terranova v State of New York, 111 Misc 2d 1089). The measure of recovery for the loss of bailed property is fair market value, which can be established by evidence of the original purchase price less a reasonable rate of depreciation (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866; Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21, 24).
Based upon the testimony and exhibits, to the extent legible, the Court finds that Claimant has established that he was directed to leave his cube without an opportunity to secure his property. The State packed his property on June 3, 2003, and the following items were missing on June 4, 2003:
4 burgundy towels[6]
1 bathrobe

The sheets and pillowcases Claimant also alleges were missing were actually accounted for on the I-64 sheet. Claimant did not adequately prove the missing commissary items and no award is made for those items.

The Court finds the value of the towels to be $5 each and the robe to be $8. Therefore, Claimant is awarded the sum of $28 with interest from June 4, 2003.

It is hereby ORDERED, that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2).

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.


August 15, 2005
Syracuse, New York

HON. DIANE L. FITZPATRICK
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]Claimant originally testified the year was 2002 but corrected the date on cross-examination.
[2]Exhibit A.
[3]Exhibit A.
[4]Exhibit 5.
[5]Exhibit 6.
[6]Claimant's receipts show the purchase of only 4 burgundy towels, although Claimant testified there were 8 missing.