The claim herein was filed on January 14, 2003, and sounds in a bailment for
the loss of certain of Claimant’s personal property while he was an inmate
assigned to Wende Correctional Facility (Wende). The essential underlying facts
are not in dispute. On April 23, 2001, Claimant was sent to the Special Housing
Unit at Wende, and his personal property was packed up. Claimant wanted to send
back to his home some photographs in two albums and other personal property
consisting of two shirts and he signed a personal property disposal form to
allow the mailing of those items.
That property was given to a correction officer, but it was never received at
his home. Claimant has exhausted his administrative remedies (Court of Claims
Act §10) and seeks recompense for the value of the lost property.
Initially I find that Claimant has established the elements of a bailment, to
wit, that items of personal property were delivered into the hands of the
Department of Correctional Services (DOCS); that the missing items were not
returned to Claimant, despite his demand for the same, and that the Defendant
has not explained the loss of the property. I find that the Defendant was the
bailee of the missing property and that Claimant has made out a prima
facie claim by demonstrating that the property was not returned upon demand.
A presumption arises that the loss occurred through the negligence of the
Defendant. There has been no rebuttal of this presumption, and thus the
Claimant is entitled to recover damages for the loss of the items of personal
Claimant testified, persuasively, that the two missing shirts were purchased in
1994 and had an original value of $48.00 each, and that the photo albums, for
which he had no receipts, were purchased in 1998 at a cost of $1.95 and at a
later date at Wende at a cost of $2.05. Claimant testified that he was told
that he could assert a value of $2.00 per photograph, although no documentation
to support such a valuation was presented to the Court.
I find that Claimant is entitled to the full value of the two photo albums, a
total of $4.00. As to the shirts, Defendant has introduced into evidence as
Exhibit B an Inmate Personal Property Claim - Depreciation Schedule/Valuation
Guide issued through DOCS, which would purport that a shirt has a life
expectancy of only one year, and implying that there is no residual value to the
lost shirts. I note that such document is only a guide, and as such is of
limited benefit to the Court. Acknowledging that the shirts cost $48.00 each
and were six years old at the time of their loss, I award $9.00 each, or a total
of $18.00. As for the photographs, it appears that Claimant seeks some $796.00,
presumably for some 398 photos at $2.00 each, although a specific number of
photographs is not alleged in the papers before me. I note that there is no
sound basis for determining the sentimental value of personal photographs, here
of family and friends from Claimant’s homeland in the Dominican Republic,
and generally only the intrinsic value may be awarded. Thus I award nothing
more than a modest amount for the lost photographs of $40.00. I therefore find
that Claimant has been damaged in the total amount of $62.00.
Accordingly, Claimant is awarded the sum of $62.00, with appropriate interest
from April 23, 2001 until October 23, 2001, six months from the accrual of this
claim, with a suspension of interest pursuant to Court of Claims Act §19(1)
until January 14, 2003, the date of filing of this claim, and with appropriate
It is ordered that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be
recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act §11-a(2). All motions not
heretofore ruled upon are now denied.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.