New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

AMAKER v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-032-511, Claim No. 105928


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:
Anthony D. Amaker, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer, NYS Attorney GeneralBy: Frederick H. McGown, III, Assistant Attorney General, Of Counsel
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
August 14, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

After a trial on June 21, 2006, the Court makes the following determination. In October 2001, claimant was sent from Clinton Correctional Facility to Upstate Correctional Facility. Claimant testified that sometime thereafter he was told by a correction officer that he was not allowed to keep certain hobby supplies at the special housing unit [hereinafter SHU] facility and that he would need to direct where he wanted the property to go. Claimant told the officer that Department of Correctional Services (Department) directives allowed him to have the property and he filed an institutional grievance. Claimant states that correction officers refused to read the directive and, ultimately destroyed his property.
To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction, claimant must demonstrate that his property was deposited with the defendant and the defendant failed to return it. (Lopez v State of New York, Ct Cl Nov. 5, 2002, #2002-018-178, Claim No. 103617, Fitzpatrick, J.; Henry v State of New York Ct Cl April 19, 2005, #2005-019-530, Claim No. 98816, Motion Nos. 69744 and 69820, Lebous, J.). Once claimant meets his burden, there is a rebuttable presumption that the defendant is negligently responsible for the loss, and defendant must come forward with proof explaining the loss. (Matter of Terranova v State of New York, 111 Misc 2d 1089; 7 NYCRR 1700.7 [b]). 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).
Department Directive 4934 governs what typically happens to an inmate's property when he or she is removed from his facility living area and placed in SHU. The directive states that an inmate's property which is not allowed in SHU is stored until the inmate is released back into general population. The Court notes, however, that claimant was sent to the SHU at Upstate Correctional Facility. Upstate is a unique facility inasmuch as it does not have a general population. Rather, it is mostly an SHU, with a cadre for inmates who serve as workers at the facility. Although hobby making supplies were allowed at claimant's prior facility, defendant presented uncontradicted testimony from a correction officer from Upstate that hobby supplies are not allowed at this facility. Given that "Correction Law §§ 112 and 137 give the Commissioner [of Corrections] broad discretion in the implementation of policies relating to security and inmate discipline" (Allah v Coughlin 190 AD2d 233, 236 [1993]), this practice is acceptable. Department Directive 4913 addresses the procedures followed for disallowed property. It provides that an inmate may ship the property at his or her expense, send the property out via a visitor, donate it to charity or have the property destroyed. When presented with these options, claimant refused to take any action and his property was ultimately destroyed. Thus, claimant's property loss was not due to defendant's negligence but, rather, by his own inaction.
Accordingly, the claim is dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

August 14, 2006
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims