New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

KING v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-030-005, Claim No. 112205


Bailment claim dismissed after trial. Failed to show exhaustion of administrative remedies through appeal process. Defense raised in answer

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:
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 11, 2009
White Plains

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Lionel King alleges in his claim that defendant’s agents negligently mishandled or lost his property while he was an inmate incarcerated at Green Haven Correctional Facility on or about December 17, 2005. In addition to general denials and other defenses raised in its answer, as a fifth affirmative defense, the State asserted that the claimant failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required before filing his claim in this court. Trial of the matter was held on January 23, 2009.

Mr. King testified that on December 17, 2005 his sister had come for a visit, bringing him a green blanket and some food items. In accordance with procedure, these would be delivered to him through the package room. He said that procedure also dictated that his sister furnish a receipt to the package room to confirm the value and age of the items, and that these receipts would be surrendered. When he went to the package room he was told that he could not get the blanket, and some of the food, and these would be returned to claimant’s sister. “They gave me some, and they kept some.”[1]

The next day claimant was “on the company, when they called this guy [also named] King for a package.” That inmate went to the package room and told them it was not his package. When he returned he asked claimant if he was expecting a package. Claimant then went to the package room, where “they searched and searched” but could not find a package for him. They also said the blanket and food had been returned to claimant’s sister.

When claimant spoke to his sister, he learned that the blanket and the food had not been returned. She indicated that she had paid “thirty seven something dollars plus tax” for the blanket. With regard to the food, he thought she might have brought some of it from her apartment, but other items, such as Listerine, had been purchased.

Claimant filed a grievance, and then filed a facility claim. In the grievance, he sought return of his blanket and the food items. [Exhibit 1]. When the matter was investigated, one investigator found that according to the package room records claimant had received 19 pounds of food, but no other articles. A different investigator spoke to the other inmate King, who said that he had been called down for a package that was not his, but rather that of his neighbor Lionel King [this claimant], and that it contained a green blanket. The conclusion of the grievance committee stated that “. . . it was verified that grievant’s package (blanket/food items) were offered inadvertently to another inmate with the same name - said inmate refused package. Inmate should file claim.” [Ibid.]. This determination was returned to the inmate on or about January 23, 2006. [Ibid.].

Thereafter, on or about January 27, 2006, claimant filed a personal property facility claim, seeking compensation in the amount of $40.00 for the green blanket, and $20.00 for the food. The claim was rejected because it was “untimely per directive #2733.” [Exhibit A].

At the trial before this court, Mr. King did not have any receipts.

On cross-examination, Mr. King was asked to confirm (and did) that receipts would be surrendered to the package room; and that he had no copies of such receipts, nor any other evidence of purchase such as a credit card receipt. He said that his sister had purchased the blanket for cash. He also explained that “you’re not allowed to get anything over $50.00 in value . . . [that is why] you are asked to produce a receipt.” With regard to the food items, when asked if his sister had told him what she had left for him, he said that she had left “Quaker oats, some chicken breasts in the can, some few items . . . I have been trying to get back to her since I got this letter [setting the trial date] but have not heard from her.” He could not remember the food items she had told him about in earlier conversations.

Claimant also confirmed that he had filed a personal property claim that was rejected as untimely as noted above, but could not recall whether he had appealed the determination. [Exhibit A]. The copy of the facility claim submitted by defendant in evidence, and identified as the facility claim by claimant, does not contain any indication that Mr. King appealed the rejection of his claim. [Ibid.]. Claimant explained that his understanding of the process was that a grievance was filed first, then the facility claim, but agreed that he probably did not understand the process with regard to the personal property claim “at the time”, and did not appeal the denial for untimeliness.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

This claim is treated as one alleging negligence by the alleged bailee in a bailment (or implied bailment) created between defendant and claimant by delivery of personal property intended for claimant into the custody of defendant’s employees. A delivery of property to the defendant’s employees, and the failure to return it to claimant, satisfies claimant’s burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence, shifting the burden to the defendant to show that it exercised ordinary care in securing claimant’s property.

More significantly here, however, Court of Claims Act §10(9) provides that an inmate in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services [DOCS] who seeks damages for the alleged loss of personal property “may not” file such a claim in this court

“ . . . unless and until the inmate has exhausted the personal property claims administrative remedy, established for inmates by the department. Such claim must be filed and served within one hundred twenty days after the date on which the inmate has exhausted such remedy.” While the court appreciates claimant’s candid testimony, his responses on the issue, and the copy of the facility claim identified by claimant and admitted in evidence [Exhibit A], establish that Mr. King did not exhaust his administrative remedies before serving and filing this claim, such failure being an affirmative defense raised in the answer, and argued as a basis for the defendant’s motion to dismiss at trial. The court does not address the more substantive aspects of the claim given this failure to satisfy a condition precedent to recovery in the Court of Claims.

Based on the foregoing, claim number 112205 is in all respects dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

March 11, 2009
White Plains, New York

Judge of the Court of Claims

[1]. Quotations are to trial notes or audio recordings unless otherwise indicated.