Court finds Claimant failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that the State was negligent in losing his personal property.
|Claimant(s):||WILLIAM ANTHONY EVANS|
|Claimant short name:||EVANS|
|Footnote (claimant name) :|
|Defendant(s):||THE STATE OF NEW YORK|
|Footnote (defendant name) :|
|Judge:||CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY|
|Claimant's attorney:||William Anthony Evans, Pro Se|
|Defendant's attorney:||ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General of the State of New York
By: Glenn C. King, Esq., AAG
|Third-party defendant's attorney:|
|Signature date:||March 22, 2018|
|See also (multicaptioned case)|
Pro se Claimant, William Anthony Evans, has established, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that Defendant was negligent in losing certain items of his personal property when he was incarcerated at Eastern NY Correctional Facility (hereinafter, "Eastern"). The trial of this Claim was held on November 14, 2017, at the Court of Claims in Albany, New York.
At trial, the Court had marked as Court Exhibits 1 and 2, respectively, Claimant's filed Claim and the State's Answer. Claimant submitted into evidence seven documents (Exs. 1- 7). The State submitted into evidence one document (Ex. A). Claimant was the only witness and testified on his own behalf.
Claimant testified that, on September 29, 2014, he signed into the infirmary at Eastern from the general inmate population; that, on or about October 14, 2014, Claimant's property in his cell was packed without him being present; and he did not receive an I-64 form as required by Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (hereinafter, "DOCCS") directives (see Court Ex. 1, Claim, ¶¶ 9, 10). On January 4, 2015, Claimant was taken to Ellenville Regional Hospital and, from there, to Albany Medical Center (hereinafter, "AMC") (id., ¶ 11). Thereafter, on January 30, 2015, Claimant was transported from AMC to Coxsackie Correctional Facility's Regional Medical Unit (id., ¶ 12). On March 17, 2015, Claimant was called to the Coxsackie Correctional Facility ( hereinafter, "Coxsackie") property room to pick up his property that was sent from Eastern (id., ¶ 13). Upon inspecting his property, Claimant noticed that several items were missing and so advised the property room officer (id., ¶ 15).
To establish a prima facie case of negligence in a bailment transaction, "[C]laimant must demonstrate that his property was deposited with the [D]efendant and the [D]efendant failed to return it … Once [C]laimant meets his burden, there is a rebuttable presumption that the [D]efendant is negligently responsible for the loss, and [D]efendant must come forward with proof explaining the loss" (Rivera v State of New York, UID No. 2008-041-501 [Ct Cl, Milano, J., Jan.10, 2008], quoting Amaker v State of New York, UID No. 2006-032-511 [Ct Cl, Hard, J., Aug. 14, 2006]; see Claflin v Meyer, 75 NY 260, 262 ; Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 [3d Dept 1991]; Singer Co. v Stott & Davis Motor Express, 79 AD2d 227, 231 [4th Dept 1981]; Board of Educ. of Ellenville Cent. School v Herb's Dodge Sales & Serv., 79 AD2d 1049, 1050 [3d Dept 1981]; Weinberg v D-M Rest. Corp., 60 AD2d 550 [1st Dept 1977]). "With respect to value, Claimant must satisfy the court of the fair market value of the items in question … Receipts are the best evidence of fair market value [less depreciation], 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]; see Phillips v Catania, 155 AD2d 866 [4th Dept 1989]; Alston v State of New York, 9 Misc 3d 1126[A] [Ct Cl 2005]; Schaffner v Pierce, 75 Misc 2d 21 [Nassau County Dist Ct 1973]).
Based upon the documentary evidence submitted, together with Claimant's credible, plausible, and uncontradicted trial testimony, the Court finds and concludes that Claimant has established, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that he possessed numerous items that were under the care and control of Defendant. The State's refusal or inability to return the bailed items on demand creates a presumption of negligence by Defendant, a presumption that the State has failed to rebut.
The Court finds these items to be: a radio/cassette player; headphones; an electric razor; a wristwatch; six (6) t-shirts; and one pair of sneakers. The Court finds and concludes that Claimant failed to establish by a preponderance of the credible evidence that he possessed and the State lost the remainder of the items he asserted in the Claim were lost. The Court finds and concludes that the value of the items which were in Claimant's possession at the time of their loss had depreciated due to their age and the fact that Claimant had used them (see Ex. A). The Court determines the depreciated value to be as follows:
1 radio/cassette player $ 25.00
1 pair of headphones $ 19.00
1 electric razor $ 40.00
1 wristwatch $ 13.00
6 t-shirts $ 21.00
1 pair of sneakers $ 40.00
Accordingly, the Court finds and concludes that Claimant is entitled to judgment in the sum of $158.00, the depreciated value of the lost property, inclusive of interest, as determined by the Court. To the extent that Claimant has paid a filing fee, it may be recovered pursuant to Court of Claims Act § 11-a(2).
The Chief Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.
March 22, 2018
Albany, New York
CHRISTOPHER J. McCARTHY
Judge of the Court of Claims