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
"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 ; 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:
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
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.