|Claimant(s):||JAMES J. JONES, 85C0146|
|Claimant short name:||JONES|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||JEREMIAH J. MORIARTY III|
|Claimant's attorney:||James J. Jones, Pro Se|
|Defendant's attorney:||Hon. Andrew M. Cuomo
New York State Attorney General
By: Wendy E. Morcio
Assistant Attorney General
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||October 27, 2010|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
James J. Jones, pro se Claimant herein, filed this Claim seeking damages for the loss of personal property while he was in the custody of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) at Collins Correctional Facility (Collins) in 2004. Claimant alleges that while he was being transferred between housing units at Collins on January 31, 2004, Defendant negligently lost two pair of sneakers and a lighted magnifying glass for which he seeks damages in the amount of $58.95, together with the costs of this proceeding. The trial of this Claim was conducted by video conference, with the parties appearing at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, New York and the Court of Claims sitting in Buffalo, New York. Claimant offered his own testimony and Defendant offered the testimony of Tammy Wojciechowski, Institution Steward at Collins.
Claimant testified that on January 31, 2004 he was transferred into the special housing unit (SHU) at Collins with certain personal property itemized on a Personal Property Transferred Form 2064 prepared on February 3, 2004, which listed, inter alia, two pair of sneakers which were placed in storage pending his release from SHU. Upon his release from SHU another 2064 form was completed on March 16, 2004 which did not include any sneakers and, based on an August 2, 2004 memo to Claimant from the Head Account Clerk at Collins, the sneakers were either destroyed or lost during his confinement in SHU. Claimant indicated that the magnifying glass was missing from his locker when his property was packed up for the transfer to SHU.
The State has a bailee's common-law duty to secure the property of inmates in the custody of DOCS, and it may be held liable for failing to carry out that duty (Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 ). The burden is on the Claimant to prove his claim by a fair preponderance of the credible evidence. Generally, when a claimant has established a bailment by proving delivery of personal property to the bailee, failure to return it upon demand raises the presumption of liability on the part of the bailee. Here Claimant alleges that his personal property was placed in the custody and control of DOCS thereby creating a bailment and since the bailee is unable to return it, a presumption arises that the loss occurred through the negligence of the Defendant (Heede Hoist & Mach. Co. v Bayview Towers Apts., 74 AD2d 598 ).
The measure of recovery where bailed property is not produced upon demand is the fair market value of the property, which is the original price less a reasonable rate of depreciation (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 ; Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21 ). Receipts are the best evidence of fair market value, although uncontradicted sworn testimony concerning replacement value may also be acceptable. These principles are embodied in a Memorandum issued by DOCS on October 9, 2001 (Defendant's Exhibit A) which contains a "Depreciation Schedule/Valuation Guide that has been compiled for use in the determination of the reasonable level of compensation to be paid in the settlement of inmate personal property claims."
The admitted documentary evidence (Defendant's Exhibit A) demonstrates Claimant's purchase and possession of two pair of sneakers and a magnifying glass. The evidence also supports Claimant's credible testimony regarding the loss of the items while in the possession and control of DOCS personnel. Accordingly, Defendant's liability for their loss has been established.
The cost of the sneakers when purchased new on April 14, 2003 and May 13, 2003 was $59.50 and, since the loss occurred more than nine months later, the sneakers were fully depreciated according to DOCS Depreciation Schedule. Thus, the Court finds that at the time of their loss the sneakers had no value.
The cost of the magnifying glass when purchased new on June 3, 1998 was $5.99, but this item does not appear on the Depreciation Schedule. However, DOCS personnel depreciated the item by 50% and found the value to be $3.00 in the administrative proceeding filed by Claimant seeking reimbursement for the lost items. Therefore, the Court finds that at the time of the loss, the fair market value of the magnifying glass was $3.00.
Claimant is awarded damages in the amount of $3.00, with statutory interest from January 31, 2004 to the date of this decision, and thereafter to the date of entry of judgment. Any and all motions upon which the Court may have previously reserved decision or which were not previously determined are hereby denied. To the extent that Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a (2).
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
October 27, 2010
Buffalo, New York
JEREMIAH J. MORIARTY III
Judge of the Court of Claims