New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims

MONOHAR v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, #2009-030-015, Claim No. 113395


Synopsis


Inmate claimant proceeding pro se did not establish after trial that he was overcharged for postage to mail back canned food in excess of allowed limits for personnel possession by inmates. Claimant did not establish the weight of the package being mailed back or the cost of postage at the time, in order to determine any overcharge.

Case Information

UID:
2009-030-015
Claimant(s):
LAKHRAJ MONOHAR
Claimant short name:
MONOHAR
Footnote (claimant name) :

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

Third-party claimant(s):

Third-party defendant(s):

Claim number(s):
113395
Motion number(s):

Cross-motion number(s):

Judge:
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Claimant’s attorney:
LAKHRAJ MONOHAR, PRO SE
Defendant’s attorney:
HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
BY: JOHN HEALEY, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Third-party defendant’s attorney:

Signature date:
June 8, 2009
City:
White Plains
Comments:

Official citation:

Appellate results:

See also (multicaptioned case)



Decision

Lakhraj Monohar, a former inmate proceeding pro se, alleges in his claim that while he was incarcerated at Fishkill Correctional Facility he was overcharged for the cost of mailing excess property on or about September 27, 2006. Trial of the matter was held on May 19, 2009.


At the trial, Mr. Monohar was the only witness to testify, and he submitted three exhibits in support of his claim. [See Exhibits 1, 2, 3]. The defendant moved to dismiss the claim for failure of proof, and did not otherwise submit a defense.

Mr. Monohar testified that on September 5, 2006 he was charged $5.38 to mail back a package of food that was in excess of the allowed limits for personal possession by inmates. He claimed that the food being returned weighed only three (3) pounds, yet the amount charged was for mailing five (5) pounds. [See Exhibit 1]. Further testimony revealed that it was three, 20 ounce cans of food that were being returned (or 3 lbs. 12 oz. total).

He sought reimbursement for the alleged overcharge, the cost of pursuing the claim in this court including certified mail postage [see Exhibit 2], and the filing fee of $30.00. [Exhibit 3]. He quantified the overcharge first as $2.38, and then as the difference between $5.38 and $2.38, but in any event an amount of either $3.00 or $2.38 by this court’s calculations.

Claimant testified that his attempt to obtain reimbursement to his inmate account of the alleged postage overcharge was denied. Just as he argued at trial that he was inappropriately being charged a flat rate, his inmate claim was premised on a similar argument. Indeed, in the filed claim he quotes the Institutional Steward’s denial of his request for reimbursement as follows:
“Claimant was not charged with a flat rate, but was charged according to the weight and where it was mailed to. The cost of the mail out is $5.38 which was correct for the 5 lb. package to Jamaica, New York.” [Claim No. 113395, ¶5].

On cross-examination it was apparent that claimant understood that the indication on the outside of a can as to 20 ounces of weight applied to not just the contents, but the can plus the contents, and that he himself, as an inmate in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services, did not possess a postage scale to ascertain the total weight of the package being mailed out.

No other witnesses testified and no other evidence was submitted.

While the court is sympathetic to the claimant’s perceived injustice, and admires his persistence in pursuing his claim, the claim must nonetheless be dismissed for failure to prove a prima facie case. Claimant simply did not establish the weight of the package being mailed back, the cost of postage at the time, and thus the amount of any overcharge.

Based on the foregoing, defendant’s motion to dismiss reserved on at the time of trial is hereby granted, and claim number 113395 is in all respects dismissed.

Let judgment be entered accordingly.

June 8, 2009
White Plains, New York

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