New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
EDWARDS v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-045-515, Claim No. 127999


Case information

UID: 2018-045-515
Claimant short name: EDWARDS
Footnote (claimant name) :
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 127999
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: Gina M. Lopez-Summa
Claimant's attorney: William Edwards, Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: Hon. Barbara D. Underwood, Attorney General
By: J. Gardner Ryan, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: November 19, 2018
City: Hauppauge
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)


William Edwards, a pro se inmate, filed a claim on May 27, 2016 in which he alleged that defendant, the State of New York, through its agents, negligently lost his property while he was incarcerated at Fishkill Correctional Facility.

A trial of this claim was held by video conference on August 7, 2018. At trial, the claim with attached exhibits was moved into evidence. Claimant testified that on July 13, 2015, he lost property during his transfer from Fishkill Correctional Facility to Mohawk Correctional Facility. He testified that Correction Officer Chrissy caused the destruction of a draft bag of legal documents and a bag of personal property. Claimant acknowledged that on October 13, 2015 some of his personal property was returned, however his headphones were broken upon return. Claimant continued to allege that his legal documents were never returned.

Claimant submitted an inmate claim form in which he sought reimbursement for one full bag of legal documents which he valued at $1,500.00, a pair of headphones valued at $49.99 and various other items. The claim was disapproved on December 3, 2015 with the notation that claimant admitted on 10/27/15 that all of his property with the exception of legal materials was returned. Claimant appealed the decision on December 4, 2015, on the basis that he never admitted receiving documents. On February 9, 2016, the appeal was disapproved.

The State has a duty to secure an inmate's personal property (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 the 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]).

With respect to value, Claimant must satisfy the court of fair market value of the items in question (Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 [4th Dept 1989]). Receipts are the best evidence of fair market value, although uncontradicted testimony concerning replacement value may also be acceptable (Kilpatrick v State of New York, UID No. 2008-030-001, [Ct Cl, Scuccimarra, J., Jan. 22, 2008]). Personally meaningful items, such as photographs, have no fair market value (Benton v State of New York, [Ct Cl, Collins, J., July 8, 1999, Claim No. 94337]).

In support of his claim, claimant testified that he was planning to sue Rikers Island and the missing documents included a use of force report; inspector general's report; medical records documents and legal research which totaled over 1,500 pages. Additionally, he testified that he purchased the headphones in 2014 for $49.99.

For legal work still to be used in future proceedings,

7 NYCRR 1700.8 [a][4], provides:

"Lost legal papers often have no value. If records in a criminal case are lost when there is no further right of appeal and no further use for them, then the records have no more than 'sentimental value,' that is, no value. If the lost legal papers can still be used, for example, in a pending or future legal proceeding, then the loss may be compensated by either replacing the papers or paying the reasonable cost to reproduce them. If an inmate can obtain replacement copies for no cost, then the lost papers have no value. If an inmate claims that there is a cost to reproduce the lost papers, then the inmate should produce an estimate for the cost to reproduce the lost papers, which normally should not exceed the cost shown in the bill for the original papers."

Based upon claimant's testimony and the documentary evidence submitted, the Court finds that claimant has failed to establish the replacement value of the alleged lost legal papers.

However, claimant provided documents which established that he owned the headphones and credibly testified that they were returned broken. Based upon the credible testimony and the documentary evidence submitted, the Court finds that with respect to the headphones, claimant has demonstrated a prima facie case of bailment while defendant has failed to adequately overcome this presumption. As a result, claimant is awarded the amount of $40.00, inclusive of interest.

All other motions on which the Court may have reserved decision or which were not previously determined are hereby denied.

To the extent Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act 11-a (2).

The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

November 19, 2018

Hauppauge, New York

Gina M. Lopez-Summa

Judge of the Court of Claims