New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FIGUEROA v. STATE OF NEW YORK, #2006-039-501, Claim No. 108315


Claimant, an inmate, did not offer sufficient proof of the value of tools alleged to have been damaged by prison officials, and his bailment claim was dismissed.

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:
Robert Figueroa, pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Hon. Eliot Spitzer,
Attorney General of the State of New York
by: Frederick H. McGown III, Esq.Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 29, 2006

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate at Clinton Correctional Facility, filed a bailment claim to recover damages to his personal property that he alleges occurred as a result of the State’s negligence. A trial was conducted on September 19, 2006. The Court heard testimony from claimant and Officer Kevin Reil of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, various documents were received in evidence and the following proof was adduced.
On April 24, 2003, claimant purchased, by mail, certain leather-making tools, including a spacer/embossing system set and a saddlemaker’s groover. An invoice, received in evidence, contained the purchase price of said items. On May 13, 2003, while present at the facility’s packaging room, claimant observed the tools to be fully intact. Prison officials did not permit claimant to take the items from the packaging room, however, pursuant to a facility memorandum dated April 25, 2003, and revised on June 3, 2003, which purportedly prohibited inmates from possessing such items. An inmate misbehavior report was made against claimant on May 15, 2003, wherein it was alleged that he refused to follow a direct order to either have the tools sent to his home or have them destroyed. That same day, claimant filed a grievance challenging the disallowance of his tools by prison officials.
A disciplinary hearing was held on May 19, 2003, and the hearing officer concluded that claimant ordered the tools the day before the effective date of the April 25, 2003 memorandum, and allowed him to receive the tools. Claimant subsequently received the tools on June 14, 2003, but, according to claimant’s testimony, the saddlemaker groover had been filed down and a screwdriver was missing from the embosser set. In response thereto, claimant filed another grievance. Claimant now seeks monetary relief from the State as a result of the alleged damage to his tools.
It is well settled that the State has a duty to secure the property of an inmate, and that a claim in the nature of bailment may be brought against the State (see Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906, 907 [1991]). “Where a bailment is created, a showing that the [items] were delivered to the bailee and returned in a damaged condition establishes a prima facie case of negligence and the burden shifts to the bailee to demonstrate that it exercised ordinary care” (Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb’s Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049, 1050 [1981]). Here, the Court finds credible claimant’s testimony that he purchased the tools on April 24, 2003, that on May 13, 2003 he observed the tools to be fully intact, but prison officials declined delivery, and that, approximately one month thereafter, prison officials delivered to him the purchased items, but one of the tools had been filed down and another was missing. Claimant offered, among other things, documentary proof in the form of an invoice, which corroborates his testimony that the items were ordered on April 24, 2003, and provides additional proof that the items were shipped to Clinton Correctional Facility. Based upon the foregoing proof, together with the fact that the State did not challenge the existence of a bailment, the Court finds that a bailment was created (see Pivar v Graduate School of Figurative Art of N.Y. Academy of Art, 290 AD2d 212, 212-213 [2002]; Alston v State of New York, 9 Misc 3d 1126 (A) [2005]).
It was incumbent upon claimant, however, to prove the value of the damaged items, and he failed to do so (see Henderson v Holley, 112 AD2d 190, 191 [1985]; Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 [1989]). Although claimant offered an invoice depicting purchase prices for the spacer/embossing system set and the saddlemaker’s groover, he failed to establish the replacement cost of the missing screwdriver or, in the alternative, the number of tools in the set, thereby permitting the Court to award damages based upon the percentage of loss to the set. Nor did claimant offer any probative evidence of the deterioration to the condition of the groover other than his own self-serving testimony (see Henderson v Holley, supra at 191). Thus, the Court is compelled to find that claimant “failed to sustain [his] ‘burden of proof of producing sufficient evidence to form a basis for an estimate of damages with some degree of exactness,’ ” and the claim must be dismissed in its entirety (id., quoting Alebrande v New York City Housing Auth., 44 Misc 2d 803, 808 [1964]). Any and all other motions on which the Court may have previously reserved or which were not previously determined are hereby denied.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.

November 29, 2006
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims