New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

LA MOUNTAIN v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-015-105, Claim No. 111563, Motion No. M-75418


Claimant's motion for summary judgment on claim for bailment was denied. He failed to establish the value of the property and exhaustion of his administrative remedies.

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:
Ronald La Mountain, Pro se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Kent B. Sprotbery, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
December 10, 2008
Saratoga Springs

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, moves for summary judgment on his bailment claim. Claimant alleges that on April 12, 2005 investigators from the Albany County Sheriff's Department and the Inspector General's office entered his cell in the honor block housing unit at Great Meadow Correctional Facility and confiscated photographs, claimant's general equivalency diploma (GED) and transcript and his paralegal certificate and grade transcripts. Damages claimed include the replacement value of the photographs, a damaged photo album, the costs of replacing claimant's GED and paralegal certificate as well as mental duress, physical pain and the costs and disbursements incurred in prosecuting the claim.

As the party seeking summary judgment, claimant must make a prima facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, by offering sufficient evidence to eliminate any material issues of fact from the case (Cox v Kingsboro Med. Group, 88 NY2d 904 [1996]; Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851 [1985]; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557 [1980]). Failure to make a prima facie showing requires denial of the motion for summary judgment regardless of the sufficiency of the opposing papers (Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, supra).

Here, claimant failed to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment. 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 (7 NYCRR § 1700.7 [b]; 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]). The claimant must also establish compliance with the requirement that he exhaust the Department of Correctional Services inmate personal property claims administrative remedy (Court of Claims Act § 10 [9]; Williams v State of New York, 38 AD3d 646 [2007]). Thereafter the burden of coming forward with evidence explaining the loss or destruction of the property 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 ).

Claimant failed to establish in support of his motion the fair market value of the property which he alleges was damaged or confiscated and not returned. Although an interdepartmental communication dated April 21, 2005 indicates that "contraband" items and photographs were removed from the claimant's cell, another interdepartmental communication dated August 11, 2005 reflects the return of claimant's property with the exception of certain photographs. Photographs have no fair market value upon which recovery in a bailment case may be based (West v State of New York, Ct Cl, August 12, 2002 [Claim No. 100642, UID #2002-015-558] Collins, J., unreported) and the claimant failed to otherwise establish the duplication cost of the confiscated photographs or the fair market value of the photo album he claims was damaged (see Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 [1989]).

Lastly, claimant failed to establish, as was his burden, that he exhausted his administrative remedies (Williams v State of New York, supra). Damages for emotional distress are not recoverable in a claim for property damage or loss (Murray v 600 E. 21st Street , LLC, 55 AD3d 805 [2008]; Tatta v State of New York, 20 AD3d 825 [2005]).

Based on the foregoing, claimant's motion is denied.

December 10, 2008
Saratoga Springs, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

The Court considered the following papers:
  1. Notice of motion dated August 18, 2008;
  2. Affidavit of "Ronnie" La Mountain sworn to August 17, 2008;
  3. Affirmation of Kent B. Sprotbery dated September 24, 2008;
  4. Reply of "Ronnie" La Mountain dated September 29, 2008;
  5. Affidavit of "Ronnie" La Mountain sworn to September 29, 2008.