New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

NYUTU v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-013-506, Claim No. 104134


Synopsis



Case Information

UID:
2006-013-506
Claimant(s):
OSEI FELA NYUTU The Court has sua sponte amended the caption to reflect the only properly named defendant herein.
Claimant short name:
NYUTU
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
The Court has sua sponte amended the caption to reflect the only properly named defendant herein.
Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
104134
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
PHILIP J. PATTI
Claimant's attorney:
OSEI FELA NYUTU, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
Attorney General of the State of New York
BY: THOMAS G. RAMSAY, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:

Signature date:
February 27, 2006
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

The claim herein was filed on April 16, 2001, and alleges a cause of action for the loss of certain personal property while Claimant was an inmate at Orleans Correctional Facility. Claimant exhausted his administrative remedies (Court of Claims Act §10[9]).

Claimant alleges, and the following facts are essentially not in dispute, that on or about December 14, 2000, he was transferred from regular housing to the Special Housing Unit (SHU) as a result of a disciplinary action. He testified, credibly, that he knew that he was about to be placed in SHU because of insubordination to a correction officer, and having that foreknowledge, he placed his personal belongings into one or the other of two lockers which were "secured" with combination locks. Typically, when an inmate is placed into SHU, the pack up of his personal property is completed by correction officers outside of his presence, and that took place here with an I-64 form dated December 14, 2000 (Exhibit A). Thereafter, the property is inventoried by a correction officer and the inmate, which was done in the claim at bar. The claim alleges that this review took place on December 19, 2000, but the I-64 form appended to the claim and as part of Defendant's Exhibit A have the notation that on December 18, 2000, Claimant alleged that several items of his personal property were missing.

Claimant theorizes that fellow inmates had access to his property in the lockers between the time that he was transferred to SHU, but before the correction officers arrived at his cubicle to secure his personal property. He specifically testified that he attributed the loss solely to the actions of fellow inmates, and not the correction officers who packed up his property.

The State's defense here is that the loss took place prior to the time that correction officers arrived to secure Claimant's property. Testimony by Correction Officer McQueen established that he arrived at the cubicle between 15 and 30 minutes after the transfer to SHU was effectuated, and that when he arrived the lockers appeared intact and were locked. Claimant attempted to elicit testimony that the combination locks were easily opened with a minimum degree of force and that his property could have been taken and the lock(s) relocked on the locker without appearing to have been tampered with. That proffer of proof, however, defeats the claim.

This claim may be distinguished from other bailment-type claims since, based upon the testimony and proof at trial, the loss here is alleged to have taken place prior to the delivery of the personal property into the hands of the Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). Since a basic element of a bailment is such delivery, I cannot find that the Defendant was the bailee of the missing property at the time of its loss. As such, Claimant has failed to make out a prima facie claim, and there can be no presumption that the loss occurred through the negligence of the Defendant. Generally speaking in these circumstances, where an inmate is separated from his property and transferred to, say, SHU or the infirmary, and his property is packed up by DOCS outside his presence, the essential elements of a bailment are satisfied.

Here, unfortunately for Claimant, he failed to establish an essential element. And while I found his testimony quite credible, and do believe that he sustained the loss of the items of personal property which he alleged in the claim, he has failed to demonstrate the Defendant's negligence. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion, upon which I reserved decision, is now granted and the claim is dismissed.

All motions not heretofore ruled upon are now denied.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.


February 27, 2006
Rochester, New York

HON. PHILIP J. PATTI
Judge of the Court of Claims