New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

GARCIA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-009-192, Claim No. 108933


Claimant was awarded the sum of $377.76 in this inmate bailment claim.

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:
Defendant’s attorney:
Attorney General
BY: Thomas M. Trace, Esq.
Senior AttorneyOf Counsel.
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
November 13, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)

In this claim, claimant alleges that the State is responsible for the loss of certain items of his personal property, valued at $547.76, when he was transferred from Marcy Correctional Facility to Elmira Correctional Facility on or about July 29, 2003. The trial of this claim was held at Marcy Correctional Facility on October 2, 2008.
Claimant was the only witness to testify at this trial, and his testimony essentially reflected the allegations set forth in his claim. In his claim, claimant attached a copy of his administrative claim form, which contained a list of personal possessions, with dollar values assigned, that claimant alleges were lost by the defendant during his transfer.
Defendant called no witnesses, and offered no explanation for or defense to the loss of claimant’s personal possessions. Defendant’s attorney, however, did cross-examine claimant as to the values attached by claimant to certain items allegedly lost.
As a bailee of property, the State has a duty to secure an inmate’s personal property, and therefore an inmate may assert a negligence claim against the State sounding in bailment (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906). In order to establish a prima facie case of negligence, a claimant must establish that the property was delivered to the defendant, and that the defendant failed to return it, or returned it in a damaged condition (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550). The defendant’s refusal or inability to return the bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence, and the burden shifts to the defendant, which must then come forward with proof to overcome this presumption (Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., supra; Alston v State of New York, 9 Misc 3d 1126[a]).
In this particular matter, the Court found claimant to be a credible witness, and his documentary evidence establishes, by a preponderance of the evidence, that claimant owned the missing items of property prior to his transfer to Elmira Correctional Facility. Defendant offered no explanation for its failure to return claimant’s property. Accordingly, the Court finds that defendant is liable for the loss of claimant’s personal property.
With respect to value, claimant has the burden to satisfy the Court as to the fair market value of the items in question (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866; Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21). Fair market value is determined by taking the value of the original purchase price, and applying a reasonable rate of depreciation (Phillips v Catania, supra). At trial, claimant relied upon the values set forth on his administrative claim form.
In reviewing these items, the Court finds that claimant did not properly account for depreciation of certain items of clothing (five tee-shirts and two sweatshirts), as well as certain reading materials (three books and one magazine). Claimant attributed a total value of $155.00 to these items without taking into account any depreciation. The Court hereby determines that after appropriate depreciation, the fair market value of these items totals $100.00.
Additionally, at trial defendant’s attorney questioned claimant as to the value claimed for 30 items of canned food, valued at $165.00 by claimant. These items of canned food consisted of soups, and claimant acknowledged, under cross-examination, that cans of soup were available in the correctional facility commissary at a cost of $.50 - $1.00. Claimant testified, however, that the canned foods that were lost had been purchased for him by relatives outside the facility, and there is no proof before the Court that the identical items were available in the commissary at the correctional facility. In any event, the Court finds that claimant has overstated the value for the 30 items of canned food, and therefore awards the sum of $50.00 for these items.
The Court has reviewed the other items set forth on claimant’s inventory, and finds that the amounts sought by claimant for those remaining items represent fair market value.
As set forth at the outset of this decision, claimant sought damages in the amount of $547.76. Of this amount, the Court has disallowed the total sum of $170.00. After deducting this amount, the Court hereby awards claimant the sum of $377.76 for his lost property.
This award shall carry appropriate interest from July 29, 2003 to the date of this decision, and thereafter to the date of entry of judgment herein.
To the extent that claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).

November 13, 2008
Syracuse, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims