Brandon Owens alleged in his claim that defendant’s agents lost his
personal property during his transfer between correctional facilities. Trial of
the matter was held at Sing Sing Correctional Facility on February 20,
As an initial matter, the assistant attorney general noted that Mr. Owens wrote
a letter to the court dated April 25, 2006 indicating that claimant no longer
needed to proceed with the claim because he had received everything he had
initially indicated was missing from the four (4) property bags. [Exhibit A].
Mr. Owens also indicated for the record that he no longer needed to pursue the
claim because he had all the missing property, but only wished to obtain
reimbursement for his filing fee in this court.
The court file reflects that Mr. Owens paid a filing fee of $45.00, pursuant to
an Order filed April 13, 2006 adjudicating the request for reduction of his
that had been filed with his claim
on March 23, 2006. As is the practice, the filing fee obligation is collected
in the same manner that mandatory surcharges are collected pursuant to Penal Law
§60.35 (5), namely, a deduction is taken from the inmate account of the
claimant. When a claimant prevails on his claim against the State of New York,
in addition to whatever damages the court directs, the court also awards the
claimant “as a taxable disbursement the actual amount of any fee paid to
file the claim.” See
Court of Claims Act §11-a(2). When a
claimant withdraws his claim, there is no refund of the filing fee.
According to the clerk’s file, claimant was advised in a letter
responding to his April 25, 2006 letter that no refund of the filing fee is
provided for under the law. [Exhibit A].
Mr. Owens claimed that his account had been debited three (3) times for $45.00,
for a total of $135.00. After some colloquy, however, it appeared that claimant
was misreading a summary of filing fees imposed and collected on a list of
inmates including claimant, and attached to the Order imposing the filing fee
applicable to his claim. This list contains a series of columns in a ledger-type
format in which the dollar figure appears several times, as
“imposed”, “collected” and in a final column indicating
what entity received the fee, for example, the county clerk or the general
fund. On this record, only the court ordered $45.00 fee was paid.
Claimant was particularly irked by the imposition of a filing fee because he
felt he had been put to an inordinate amount of trouble just to pursue his
property claim, and to obtain documentation of the losses alleged - including
obtaining copies of his I-64 inventory forms - only to then receive the lost
property within two months of filing his claim in the Court of Claims. The
court notes that within the narrative in the filed claim he indicates first that
the property was destroyed at Downstate Correctional Facility in July 2005;
indicates that property bags were lost at Downstate during his transfer from
Fishkill Correctional Facility to Southport Correctional Facility, and then
recites his efforts to file grievances and obtain documentation as each facility
in turn appeared to say that documentation would be found at another facility.
[See Claim No. 112127, filed March 23, 2006].
The defendant indicated that the assistant attorney general’s office was
served with the claim in June 2006: well after the April 25, 2006 letter
Mr. Owens wrote indicating he had received all of his property, and was advised
by the court that there was no provision for recovery of his filing fee. The
court also notes that the recovery of costs or litigation expenses is not
available against the State in the Court of Claims with limited statutory
exceptions. See Court of Claims Act § 27; Russo v State of New
York, 50 AD3d 1554 ( 4th Dept 2008), lv denied 11 NY3d 702 (2008);
Gittens v State of New York, 175 AD2d 530, 530-531 (3d Dept 1991).
While the court is sympathetic to the efforts made, since the claimant did not
prevail in a claim presented to this court, but rather (in effect) has indicated
that there is no basis to proceed on his lost property claim in this court, no
recovery of the filing fee of $45.00 paid herein may be had.
Accordingly, claim number 112127 is in all respects dismissed.
Let judgment be entered accordingly.