Claimant Allah Kasiem, an inmate appearing pro se, alleges that certain
personal property belonging to him was lost due to the negligence of prison
officials during his incarceration in Elmira Correctional Facility. A trial of
this matter was held on October 25, 2005 at the Elmira Correctional Facility
Claimant offered his own testimony in support of his claim. Claimant testified
that on August 24, 1999 he was directed to pack his personal property because he
was being moved
to the special housing unit (hereinafter "SHU"). Claimant testified that he
packed his property as instructed and ended up with 8 full bags. Claimant
stated that an officer Elliot verified by verbal count that there were 8 bags,
then handcuffed him and escorted him to SHU. Claimant testified that he last
saw his 8 bags in his cell at which point officers were supposed to take his
bags to the property room for safe keeping. Claimant stated that 4 of his 8
bags were missing when he finally received his property in SHU. Claimant argued
that the State violated Directive #4934 which governs the temporary storage of
personal property when an inmate is moved to, among other places, SHU. Claimant
conceded at trial that he did not have his I-64 form from his original arrival
in Elmira or when he received his bags in SHU. Nor did claimant offer the
testimony of officer Elliot.
At the close of claimant's proof, the State made a motion to dismiss due to
claimant's failure to establish a prima facie case upon which the court reserved
to allow claimant two weeks from trial to submit post-trial proof. The court
waited 30 days from trial before issuing this Decision, but did not receive any
post trial submissions from claimant.
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 that
the latter failed to return it. (
Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp
., 60 AD2d 550; Heede Hoist & Mach. Co. v
Bayview Towers Apts
., 74 AD2d 598). Claimant 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, among other places, SHU. In these situations, when
an inmate is not able to move his personal belongings, a correction officer must
"[t]ake immediate steps to protect the inmate's personal property by securing
the cell/cube." (Directive #4934 II ).
Here, the court finds that claimant offered no proof other than his testimony
that his property was in his cell in 8 full bags prior to his confinement in the
SHU. Claimant 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 SHU.
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 SHU and find a
violation of Directive 4934, claimant has clearly failed at trial to prove
damages. It is well-settled that the court must determine the fair market value
of the missing or damaged property, which includes depreciation of the lost
Schaffner v Pierce
, 75 Misc 2d 21, 24). Receipts are the best evidence
of fair market value, although uncontradicted testimony concerning replacement
value may also be acceptable. (Phillips v Catania
, 155 AD2d 866). No
such proof was offered. Moreover, since claimant failed to prove that a
bailment occurred he may not recover nominal damages. (Atlantic Mut. Ins.
Co. v Noble Van & Stor. Co.
, 146 AD2d 729).
Based upon the foregoing, the State's motion to dismiss, made at the close of
proof and upon which the court reserved at trial, is hereby granted and Claim
No. 101653 is hereby DISMISSED.
Any and all motions on which the court may have previously reserved or which
were not previously determined, are hereby denied.
The clerk of the court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.