Bailment claim granted after trial. Green Haven personnel signed for package received federal express but did not deliver to claimant, the only witness at trial. Loss $76.93 plus interest and filing fee.
|Claimant short name:||STEEDLY|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA|
|Claimant's attorney:||MICHAEL STEEDLY, PRO SE|
|Defendant's attorney:||HON. ANDREW M. CUOMO, NEW YORK STATE
BY: JEANE STRICKLAND SMITH, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||February 1, 2010|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
Michael Steedly alleges in his claim that defendant's agents at Green Haven Correctional Facility [Green Haven] failed to deliver a package addressed to him from the package room, resulting in his loss of the cost of the package (with shipping) in the amount of $76.93. More specifically he alleges that on May 2, 2007 a Correction Officer Morris signed for a package addressed to claimant that had been sent via Federal Express and then thereafter failed to deliver same to Mr. Steedly.
At the trial, claimant testified essentially as indicated in his claim. He said that in April 2007, monies were disbursed in the amount of $76.93 to a company called Walkenhorsts for the purchase of headphones and a pair of sneakers with shipping. [Exhibit 2]. The monies were received by Walkenhorsts on April 17, 2007. When he had not received his purchase by July 2007, he wrote to the company for reimbursement. He was then told that the package had been sent via Federal Express and had arrived at the Stormville location on May 2, 2007. Their package trace showed that it had been signed for by "R. Morris" on that date. [Exhibit 1].
His facility claim and grievance were denied, although at least a portion of the grievance determination indicated that claimant should receive a refund. [Exhibit 3]. The inmate property loss claim was denied, with the notation "No proof that package ever received. C.O. Morris states he did not sign for package." [Exhibit 4]. Apparently, the correction officer indicated that his signature had been forged, and denied that he had signed for the package.
On cross-examination, claimant agreed that he had ordered from two different companies - the other's name was Access - around the same time. He confirmed, however, that while he received the items he had purchased from Access, he never received the property he had ordered and paid for from Walkenhorsts.
No other witnesses testified, and no other evidence was submitted.
This claim is in the nature of a bailment created by delivery of claimant's personal property into the custody of defendant's employees. See generally Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260 (1878). The State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property generally. Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 (3d Dept 1991). A delivery of property to the bailee, and the latter's failure to return it, satisfies Claimant's burden of establishing a prima facie case of negligence. The bailee is then required to come forward with evidence to "overcome the presumption." Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550 (1st Dept 1977). There has been no showing that defendant exercised ordinary care in taking care of the property it received for claimant. Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049, 1050 (3d Dept 1981).
In this case, claimant has established that personal property was delivered to the custody and control of the Green Haven package room, and then disappeared while in their custody. Mr. Steedly presented as a credible witness, whose testimony was uncontradicted. Moreover, his testimony was corroborated by documentary evidence, including the check disbursed and the federal express package tracking receipt he submitted showing that a package was delivered to Green Haven and signed for, with no explanation offered for defendant's failure to produce the property. Claimant's testimony establishes the total loss as $76.93 .
Accordingly, claimant is hereby awarded damages in the amount of $76.93 plus statutory interest [§16 State Finance Law; § 5004 Civil Practice Law and Rules], which the Court finds presumptively reasonable, from the date of accrual of May 2, 2007 to the date of this Decision, and thereafter to the date of the entry of judgment pursuant to §§ 5001 and 5002 Civil Practice Law and Rules.
It is ordered that to the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
Let Judgment be entered accordingly.
February 1, 2010
White Plains, New York
THOMAS H. SCUCCIMARRA
Judge of the Court of Claims