New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

WILLIAMS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-038-001, Claim No. 107127


Synopsis


Claimant did not prove his bailment claim, when the preponderance of evidence at trial did not establish that defendant was the bailee of four bags of excess property.

Case Information

UID:
2006-038-001
Claimant(s):
DE ANDRE WILLIAMS
Claimant short name:
WILLIAMS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
107127
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
W. BROOKS DEBOW
Claimant’s attorney:
De Andre Williams, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York, by Saul Aronson, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
September 18, 2006
City:
Albany
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision
Claimant filed this bailment claim on December 27, 2002 seeking money damages for personal property that was allegedly lost concomitant to claimant’s transfer from Clinton Correctional Facility (hereinafter “Clinton”) to Upstate Correctional Facility (hereinafter “Upstate”). The trial of the claim was held at Clinton on August 22, 2006. Claimant offered his own testimony and that of New York State Department of Correctional Services Sergeant J. T. Douglass; defendant offered no witnesses. Numerous documents offered by both claimant and defendant were received in evidence.
An inmate may assert a claim against the State sounding in bailment (see Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 [1991]). To establish a prima facie case, a claimant must establish that he or she delivered property to facility officials and that the property was not returned (see Weinberg v D-M Restaurant Corp., 60 AD2d 550 [1997]; Alston v State of New York, 9 Misc3d 1126[A] [2005]). Resolution of this claim rests upon the Court’s determination of whether claimant shipped two bags or four bags of excess property via United States mail from Clinton to Upstate.
Claimant testified that he sent four bags of excess property to Upstate by mail, but that he received only two of the four bags. A “Disbursement or Refund Request” form dated June 10, 2002 in the amount of $12.64 for “postage to ship bags excess property 65#s” was received in evidence (claimant’s Exhibit 1 & claimant’s Exhibit 5). A second “Disbursement or Refund Request” form dated June 11, 2002 in the amount of $12.99 for postage for “excess property 66#s legal work” was also received into evidence (claimant’s Exhibit 2 & claimant’s Exhibit 5). Claimant testified that he received two excess property bags that he denominates as package #65, but that he did not receive the two excess property bags that he denominates as package #66. He testified that package #66 contained legal materials (i.e., court transcripts and appellate briefs), law books and two book manuscripts.
On top of a “Personal Property Transferred” form (otherwise known as an “I-64” form) dated “10/7/01,” received into evidence under claimant’s Exhibit 6
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and defendant’s Exhibit C, there are four numbers (0209036, 0209037, 0209038 and 0209039). Trial testimony and the documentary evidence establish
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that those four numbers correspond to the four property bags that were sent to Upstate along with claimant. While the property that was in those four bags is not in issue, the numbers at the top of the I-64 form are relevant in the context of an additional notation on the bottom of the I-64 form stating “2 bags sent at inmate expense 6-10-02.” This notation establishes that two bags of excess property (i.e., property that was not sent along with claimant to Upstate) were sent to claimant by mail to Upstate.
Sergeant Douglass testified that excess property bags of inmates are not shipped in bags, but are placed in boxes for shipment to an inmate’s new correctional facility. The “Disbursement or Refund Request” forms for claimant’s payment of the shipping costs of #65 and #66 (claimant’s 1, 2 and 5), and the United States Postal Service Delivery Confirmation Receipts (defendant’s Exhibit D) confirm that two boxes of claimant’s excess property were shipped by the United States Postal Service from Clinton to Upstate on June 11, 2002. No other evidence was received to indicate that any other boxes of excess property were mailed to claimant after June 11. Thus, the Court infers that: (1) only two boxes of excess property were sent to claimant on June 11; and (2) those two boxes contained all of claimant’s excess property. Claimant signed for two bags of property that had been sent via the United States Postal Service to Upstate on June 12, 2002 (defendant’s Exhibit B).
While claimant’s testimony and certain of the documentary evidence submitted by him met his initial burden of establishing that he did not receive two bags of excess property denominated #66 following his arrival at Upstate, the credible evidence adduced at trial does not establish, by a preponderance thereof, that claimant sent four bags of excess property. Based upon the totality of the evidence adduced at trial, the Court finds that: (1) four bags of claimant’s personal property accompanied him from Clinton to Upstate; (2) claimant placed two bags of excess property for shipment in defendant’s care on or about June 10, 2002, (3) two bags of excess property were placed into two boxes for shipment to Upstate; (4) two boxes were shipped to claimant at Upstate on June 11; and (5) claimant signed for two bags at Clinton on June 12. In sum, claimant’s testimony that boxes #65 and #66 contained four bags is wholly uncorroborated and inconsistent with the remaining testimonial and documentary evidence, which supports the conclusion that those two boxes contained only one bag each, and that claimant received and signed for both of those bags. Accordingly, the Court finds in favor of defendant, and the claim is dismissed.
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of defendant, dismissing the claim.

September 18, 2006
Albany, New York

HON. W. BROOKS DEBOW
Judge of the Court of Claims



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Claimant’s Exhibit 6 consists of three documents: (1) a copy of an I-64 form dated October 7, 2001 that was also received in evidence as defendant’s Exhibit C, (2) a copy of an I-64 form dated September 16, 2000, and (3) a copy of an I-64 form dated September 19, 2000. Although not entirely clear from the documents or the testimony at trial, the Court draws the inferences that document (1) is a cover page that identifies that four bags were sent along with claimant to Upstate, as discussed infra, and that document (1) is only a partial listing of the contents of the four bags while documents (2) and (3) contain a more detailed itemized listing of the contents of those four bags.
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The first of those four numbers identifying those four bags on the I-64 form (0209036) matches up with an “Inmate Property Transfer” tag that was received as claimant’s Exhibit 7 that indicates that 0209036 was the first of four packages that were sent to Upstate with claimant.