New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

FIGUEROA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2008-041-504, Claim No. 109749


Claimant awarded damages for defendant’s loss, neither excused nor explained, of claimant’s watch during transport of claimant’s property between correctional facilities.

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:
New York State Attorney GeneralBy: Michael C. Rizzo, Esq., Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
May 1, 2008

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Robert Figueroa (claimant) brings this bailment claim against defendant, seeking damages for the loss of an item of personal property, a Timex Indiglo watch, while he was being transferred from Clinton Correctional Facility (Clinton) to Attica Correctional Facility (Attica) in November 2003.

There is no dispute that claimant purchased the watch new on or about May 11, 2001 at a cost of $32.97 (Exhibit 2), which excludes the cost to claimant of shipping. Further, there is no dispute claimant possessed the watch at Clinton (Exhibit 3), or that the watch was listed on a manifest of claimant’s personal property, an I-64 form (Exhibit 1), when claimant was being transferred from Clinton to Attica, the I-64 form bearing the date of November 2, 2003 to represent the date of claimant’s departure from Clinton.

Dispute arises upon claimant’s arrival at Attica on November 12, 2003. Exhibit 1 is acknowledged by claimant as containing his signature on November 12, 2003, the date of his arrival at Attica, to indicate receipt of his personal possessions upon arrival at Attica, including the watch in question. However, claimant’s testimony is that upon arrival at Attica, he was given an ultimatum by “J. Baint,” the officer at Attica responsible for dispensing to claimant his personal possessions (and whose signature is on Exhibit 1). Notwithstanding claimant’s assertion the watch was missing from his personal possessions, claimant was instructed by Baint to sign the I-64 form acknowledging receipt of the watch, or he would not receive any of his personal possessions that were present, four bags in all. According to claimant, faced with this choice and the possibility of being denied all of his personal possessions, claimant signed the I-64 form indicating receipt of the watch, notwithstanding its absence.

Claimant was the only witness at trial. He testified in a clear, consistent, unembellished and credible manner. The defendant called no witnesses.

Consistent with claimant’s version of events, he immediately sought, upon arrival at Attica, to prosecute his claim for a lost watch with prison officials, testifying he wrote that very day, November 12, 2003, seeking the return of his watch. Exhibit 4 is the response claimant received from defendant’s Inmate Records Coordinator Herman, dated November 17, 2003, indicating there was no watch in claimant’s personal property.

Exhibits 5 and 6, each dated November 20, 2003, are, respectively, an Inmate Claim Form and claimant’s letter to Clinton First Deputy Superintendent Brown, each complaining about the loss of his watch. Exhibit 7 is First Deputy Superintendent Brown’s response, dated November 24, 2003, informing claimant his watch had been sent on the “draft bus,” when claimant had been transferred from Clinton to Attica.

The Court finds that the claimant’s conduct and actions, on and immediately after November 12, 2003, seeking the return of a watch he claimed to be lost, to be consistent with his trial testimony, which the Court found credible.

"To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction, claimant must demonstrate that his property was deposited with the defendant and the defendant failed to return it. . . . Once claimant meets his burden, there is a rebuttable presumption that the defendant is negligently responsible for the loss, and defendant must come forward with proof explaining the loss. . . . The measure of recovery for the loss of bailed property is fair market value, which can be established by evidence of the original purchase price less a reasonable rate of depreciation" Amaker v State of New York (Ct Cl August 14, 2006, #2006-032-511, Hard, J.); see Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260 [1878]; Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550 [1st Dept 1977]; Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049, 1050 [3d Dept 1981]; Miceli v State of New York, 179 Misc 2d 424, 428-429 [Ct Cl 1998]).

These principles are embodied in Department of Correctional Services regulations at 7 NYCRR 1700.7 (b), which provides at relevant part as follows:
"Property last in control of the department. When an inmate's property was last in the control of the department or its agents, and the department fails without good explanation to deliver it in to the inmate or the inmate's designee in the same condition as when received by the department, then there is a rebuttable presumption that the department is negligently responsible for the loss.

(1) To rebut the presumption of negligence, the reviewer must determine that all department staff who had a duty to protect the inmate's property carried out their duties in an acceptable way. If that is not shown or if it is shown that the department's staff failed to meet their responsibilities, then the department will be deemed to have been negligent."

Accordingly, the Court finds by a preponderance of the credible evidence that a watch costing claimant $32.97 and rightfully possessed by claimant at Clinton, possession of which was thereafter assumed by defendant, was not returned to claimant upon his arrival at Attica, the failure of which was neither excused nor explained.

The claimant owned and wore the watch daily for two and one-half years, until its loss, from May 2001 to November 2003. Its original cost, as new, being $32.97, the Court finds its fair market value at the time of its loss to be $16.50. The claimant seeks additional damages in the amount of $500.00 for “emotional and psychological” harm. No proof whatsoever of any such harm was presented to the Court.

Claimant is awarded damages in the amount of $16.50, with interest from November 12, 2003, plus the amount of his filing fee, if any, in bringing the claim, pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).

All motions not previously decided are hereby denied.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

May 1, 2008
Albany, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims