New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

SANTIAGO v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-037-520, Claim No. 107523


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:
Jose A. Santiago, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer
New York State Attorney General
By: Geoffrey B. Rossi, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 16, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

Jose A. Santiago, the pro se claimant herein, alleges in Claim Number 107523 that Defendant’s agents negligently lost his personal property while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) at Elmira Correctional Facility (Elmira). Trial was held at Elmira on November 1, 2006.
Claimant testified that on November 12, 2002, he was transferred from G block, 2 company, 9 cell to the special housing unit (SHU) at Elmira following an altercation in the facility hospital and his personal property was left in the cell to be packed and removed by correction officers in his absence. On November 13, 2002, Claimant was permitted to view his personal property which had been transferred from the cell to the SHU by correction officers when he discovered that the items listed in his claim were missing. He claims $2,914.62 in damages.
In terms of possession, delivery and value, Claimant relied on various permits issued allowing his possession of the property, receipts for the purchase of various items concerning value, as well as the package room notations attesting to the receipt of some property in terms of possession (Claimant’s Exhibits 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 & 19). He submitted a Personal Property Transferred inventory form (Form 2064) related to his transfer into SHU at Elmira, dated November 12, 2002, noting that there were eleven bags of personal property packed by Correction Officer Chorney (CO Chorney) on November 12, 2002, and acknowledged by Claimant on November 13, 2002 (Claimant’s Exhibit 6). Claimant testified that none of the missing property was listed on that form and he subsequently filed a grievance and an Inmate Claim Form alleging the loss of some of the items listed in the claim (Claimant’s Exhibits 13 & 14).
CO Chorney, a seven year employee of DOCS, was on duty at Elmira on November 12, 2002, when he was ordered to pack up and move Claimant’s personal property to the SHU for safekeeping. Accordingly, he placed Claimant’s property in eleven draft bags and delivered them to the basement area of the SHU where he inventoried the property and prepared the 2064 form (see Claimant’s Exhibit 6). The bags were then sealed and placed in a secure area for later inspection by Claimant.
The burden is on the Claimant to prove his claim by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence. Generally, when a claimant has established a bailment by proving delivery of personal property to the bailee, failure to return it upon demand raises the presumption of liability on the part of the bailee. Here Claimant alleges that his personal property was locked in his cell when he was escorted to the hospital and then placed in the custody and control of DOCS when he was summarily placed in the SHU, thereby creating a bailment and since the property is now missing a presumption arises that the loss occurred through the negligence of the Defendant (Heede Hoist & Mach. Co. v Bayview Tower Apts., 74 AD2d 598 [1980]). The State has a duty to secure an inmate’s personal property (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 [1991]).
The measure of recovery where bailed property is not produced upon demand is the fair market value of the property, which is the original price less a reasonable rate of depreciation (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 [1989]; Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21 [1973]).
Unfortunately, despite the sincerity of his testimony, Claimant did not establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence all the elements necessary in a bailment claim. Although Claimant has established that at one time he possessed some of the allegedly missing items, he did not establish exactly what items of property were last in his possession and were delivered into DOCS custody and control. The 2064 form does not specifically identify any of the items described in the claim. Thus there is no evidence, beyond Claimant’s sole testimony, verifying the specific property that was allegedly missing.
Claimant did submit evidence of the value of the items he claims are missing, but the Court is unable to assess damages without competent proof of the possession of the purportedly missing property. Accordingly, Claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case and Defendant’s motion to dismiss upon which decision was reserved at the time of trial is hereby granted, and Claim Number 107523 is dismissed in its entirety.

November 16, 2006
Buffalo, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims