New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MEJIA v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-015-522, Claim No. 111171


Synopsis


Pro se inmate was awarded damages for damage to his property which occurred during the course of a prison transfer.

Case Information

UID:
2009-015-522
Claimant(s):
LUIS MEJIA
Claimant short name:
MEJIA
Footnote (claimant name) :

Defendant(s):
THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
111171
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Claimant’s attorney:
Luis Mejia, Pro Se
Defendant’s attorney:
Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo, Attorney General
By: Stephen J. Maher, EsquireAssistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
July 7, 2009
City:
Saratoga Springs
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Claimant, an inmate proceeding pro se, alleges that his typewriter and eyeglasses were damaged during the course of shipment to another correctional facility. The claim proceeded to trial on April 30, 2009.


Claimant, testifying through an interpreter, stated that his belongings were packed in four bags for transfer to Arthur Kill Correctional Facility from McGregor Correctional Facility. His eyeglasses were placed in the same bag as his typewriter. He testified that he requested that the typewriter be shipped through the United States mail service but that he was instructed to place it in a bag. Claimant testified that his typewriter and glasses were broken during the course of the transfer. He stated that his typewriter now works only sporadically and that the memory no longer works. The cost of the typewriter was $169.65, including tax and shipping (see Exhibit 3). The eyeglasses were relatively new and cost $120.50 (Exhibit 2).

In addition to the receipts for the purchase of the typewriter and eyeglasses (Exhibits 2 and 3), the Inmate Claim Form was received in evidence as claimant's Exhibit 1 and the 2064 form reflecting the property transferred from Mt. McGregor to Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on February 2, 2005 was received in evidence as claimant's Exhibit 4. The 2064 form reflects the shipment of the typewriter and eyeglasses on February 2, 2005 and the receipt of this property in Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on February 5, 2005.

On cross-examination claimant testified that Exhibit 3 is the receipt for the purchase of the typewriter in 1992. He testified that he no longer uses the typewriter because it now works only sporadically. The cost of the typewriter excluding tax and shipping was $145.00. He testified that he still has the damaged eyeglasses although he did not bring them to trial.

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 (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]). Thereafter the burden of coming forward with evidence that the loss or destruction of the property was not its fault 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 sufficiently established by a preponderance of the credible evidence that he delivered the typewriter and eyeglasses to the defendant and that these items were returned to him in a damaged condition. While these facts were not contested, the defendant established that the typewriter was 13 years old at the time it was damaged and was still usable sporadically. Upon consideration of the age of the typewriter, the Court will award the claimant $50.00 for the damage to the typewriter. Although the receipt for the purchase of the eyeglasses reflects that the claimant paid $120.50 on October 4, 2004, claimant did not bring the glasses with him to trial. As claimant testified that he has not replaced the glasses it appears they are still usable and the Court awards the claimant $50.00 for the damage to his glasses.

Based on the foregoing, the Court hereby awards total damages to the claimant of $100.00 plus interest at the statutory rate from February 5, 2005 (CPLR 5001 [a] and [b]).

To the extent the claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).

Let judgment be entered accordingly.



July 7, 2009
Saratoga Springs, New York

HON. FRANCIS T. COLLINS
Judge of the Court of Claims