New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

VALENTINE v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2007-015-570, Claim No. 109201


Synopsis


Bailment claim was dismissed as claimant failed to establish that he delivered the lost property to the defendant.

Case Information

UID:
2007-015-570
Claimant(s):
CHAUN VALENTINE
Claimant short name:
VALENTINE
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
109201
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Chaun Valentine, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Paul Cagino, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 18, 2007
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision


The trial of this pro se inmate claim took place on October 9, 2007. The claim seeks damages allegedly arising out of the negligent loss of property during the course of claimant's transfer from Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility to Upstate Correctional Facility on September 21, 2003.

Claimant testified that his property was packed at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility on September 21, 2003 and arrived at Upstate Correctional Facility on October 6, 2003, at which time the claimant was given the opportunity to view his property although he was not permitted to take possession due to his commitment to the facility's special housing unit. Claimant testified that his view of the property was limited and it was not until he was transferred to Bare Hill Correctional Facility in December 2003 that he was able to determine the extent of his loss[1].

Form number I-64 dated October 6, 2003 was admitted into evidence at trial as part of defendant's Exhibit B. The I-64 form reflects the property which was packed for shipment at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility on September 21, 2003 and is signed by the two correction officers who "checked" the property. Although the claimant refused to sign the form thereby acknowledging the property which was packed for shipment, the I-64 form reflects that all of the property packed at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility was received at Upstate Correctional Facility. Claimant acknowledged this fact by signing the form on October 6, 2003.

Of the property claimant alleges is missing only peanut butter, jelly, thermal underwear, shirts, stamps and protein powder are reflected on the form.

The State as a bailee of an inmate's personal property owes a common-law duty to secure the property in its possession (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 [1991]; see also 7 NYCRR part 1700). A rebuttable presumption of negligence arises where it is established that the property was delivered to the defendant with the understanding that it would be returned, and that the defendant failed to return the property or returned it in a damaged condition (Ramirez v City of White Plains, 35 AD3d 698 [2006]; Feuer Hide & Skin Corp. v Kilmer, 81 AD2d 948 [1981]; Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550 [1977]; see also Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260 [1878]). Thereafter the burden of coming forward with evidence that the loss or destruction of the property was not its fault is upon the defendant (Feuer Hide & Skin Corp. v Kilmer, supra; Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049 [1981]; Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., supra ).

In the instant matter, claimant failed to establish that he delivered many of the allegedly missing items to correction employees at Lyon Mountain Correctional Facility on September 21, 2003. Receipt of the items which were included on the I-64 form for shipment from Lyon Mountain, was acknowledged by the claimant at Upstate Correctional Facility on October 6, 2003[2]. The proof at trial is insufficient to meet the claimant's burden of establishing that the defendant failed to return any of the claimant's property of which it took possession as bailee.

Accordingly, based on the foregoing, the claim is dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.



December 18, 2007
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. An administrative claim was filed on October 23, 2003 and denied on December 29, 2003 as the items claimed were not indicated on the I-64 form reflecting the property packed for shipment. The claimant's appeal to the superintendent was denied on January 15, 2004. The instant claim was filed on April 16, 2004 and was therefore timely (see Court of Claims Act § 10[9]).
[2]. Although one of the I-64 forms admitted into evidence at trial reflects that a reduced number of jars of peanut butter were received at Upstate Correctional Facility, claimant testified that he authorized the disposal of the missing jars (see Exhibit B [Authorization for Disposal of Personal Property]).