New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

OWENS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-030-009, Claim No. 112127


Synopsis


Bailment claim essentially withdrawn before trial since inmate claimant proceeding pro se said he received all his property. Request for reimbursement of filing fee denied, however, since recovery of litigation expenses not available except in limited circumstances.

Case Information

UID:
2009-030-009
Claimant(s):
BRANDON OWENS
Claimant short name:
OWENS
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
112127
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
BRANDON OWENS, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: BARRY KAUFMAN, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
March 30, 2009
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)


Decision

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, 2009.


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 filing fee[1] 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.

March 30, 2009
White Plains, New York

HON. THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims




[1]. Court of Claims Act §11-a(1) requires that a filing fee of $50.00 be paid unless application is made for reduction pursuant to Civil Practice Law and Rules §1101.