New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

BROWN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-031-511, Claim No. 108079


Synopsis


Prisoner - bailment - claimant established liability of the State for the loss of personal property. Claim granted in the amount of $125.00

Case Information

UID:
2006-031-511
Claimant(s):
ISHAWN BROWN
Claimant short name:
BROWN
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
108079
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Claimant’s attorney:
ISHAWN BROWN, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ELIOT SPITZER
New York State Attorney General
BY: HEATHER R. RUBINSTEIN, ESQ.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 10, 2006
City:
Rochester
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

.
Decision
Claimant Ishawn Brown filed claim number 108079 on July 31, 2003, alleging that Defendant is responsible for the loss of Claimant’s personal property valued at $378.50. I conducted the trial of this claim on September 26, 2005, at Auburn Correctional Facility.
Claimant testified that on August 16, 2002, he was transferred from Cayuga Correctional Facility to Five Points Correctional Facility (“Five Points”). Claimant’s property, including his legal work, was placed in five draft bags. Upon arriving at Five Points, Claimant received only four bags of his property. The fifth bag was later received after being mailed at Claimant’s expense. Upon receiving the fifth bag and reviewing the contents, Claimant discovered that all of his legal papers were missing. He alleges that he lost 1,514 pages of legal material.
In defense of the claim, Defendant did not dispute that portions of Claimant’s legal work were missing. However, Defendant challenges Claimant’s proof, asserting that Claimant has failed to demonstrate the value of the missing documents.
The State has a duty to secure an inmate’s personal property (Pollard v State of
New York, 173 AD2d 906). Claimant’s burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence is satisfied once he demonstrates the delivery of property to Defendant, and the Defendant’s failure to return it in the same condition. The burden then shifts to Defendant to come forward with evidence to “overcome the presumption” (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). I find, therefore, that Defendant is liable to Claimant for the loss of this property (see 7 NYCRR § 1700.7; see also Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., supra). Claimant is entitled to recover the fair market value of the lost property (see Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866).
Determining fair compensation for lost legal documents is difficult (Lamountain v State of New York, Ct Cl, December 1, 2000 [Claim No. 99167], Bell, J., UID #2000-007-535, citing Erdheim v State of New York, Ct Cl, May 22, 2000 [Claim No. 97545], Bell, J., at 3-5, UID #2000-007-517). In order to recover damages, Claimant must establish the identity and value of the legal documents (Johnson v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 23, 2000 [Claim No. 93968], Mignano, J., 2000-029-014).
Claimant identified the missing legal documents and indicated that he needed these documents for a Federal Habeas Corpus petition he filed in 2002. Exhibit A to Defendant’s post-trial submission indicates that Claimant’s Habeas Corpus petition was denied on October 31, 2003. Defendant argues that the denial of the petition had nothing to do with the documents Claimant alleges were lost, but it is not clear from the record before me that this is the case. Although Claimant has failed to show that he would have been successful in his petition had the documents not been lost, he did show that the documents were relevant and that he was unable to use them in support of his petition.
Based upon Claimant’s testimony and the other evidence before this Court, Claimant is entitled to an award of $125.00 for his lost property, inclusive of interest.
All other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined are hereby denied.
It is ordered that, to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it is recoverable pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY

May 10, 2006
Rochester, New York

HON. RENÉE FORGENSI MINARIK
Judge of the Court of Claims