New York State Court of Claims

New York State Court of Claims
CURRY v. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, # 2018-054-060, Claim No. 124935

Synopsis

Wrongful confinement claim denied-items not specified which were taken possession of, no proof of value.

Case information

UID: 2018-054-060
Claimant(s): JOHN CURRY
Claimant short name: CURRY
Footnote (claimant name) :
Defendant(s): THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Footnote (defendant name) :
Third-party claimant(s):
Third-party defendant(s):
Claim number(s): 124935
Motion number(s):
Cross-motion number(s):
Judge: WALTER RIVERA
Claimant's attorney: JOHN CURRY
Pro Se
Defendant's attorney: HON. BARBARA D. UNDERWOOD
Attorney General for the State of New York
By: Heather Rubinstein, Assistant Attorney General
Third-party defendant's attorney:
Signature date: June 14, 2018
City: White Plains
Comments:
Official citation:
Appellate results:
See also (multicaptioned case)

Decision

Claimant alleges that during his incarceration in Green Haven Correctional Facility, he was wrongfully confined for 45 days in the special housing unit (SHU) after he was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing of possession of a weapon on June 2, 2014. Claimant also alleges that his property was lost when he was transferred from his cell to SHU.

Claimant testified at trial and presented exhibit 1, which was received in evidence. Defendant did not present any witnesses. However, defendant's exhibits A through D were received in evidence.

Claimant testified that he believes that he was the victim of a "set up"(1) regarding the allegations that he was in possession of a razor-type weapon with a sheath on June 2, 2014. After a disciplinary hearing, claimant was found guilty of possession of a weapon. Claimant appealed the hearing officer's determination and the finding was reversed on August 21, 2014. The reason for the reversal was that the "record fails to indicate how the inmate's intellectual capacity affected the disposition" (Ex. A, p 1). Claimant spent 45 days in SHU before he was released due to the reversal. While claimant testified that all of his property was lost when he was transferred to SHU, he did not specify the items which were purportedly lost, nor did he present any proof of their value.

At the conclusion of claimant's case, defendant moved to dismiss the claim for failure to establish a prima facie case by a preponderance of the credible evidence. Claimant opposed the motion. The Court reserved decision on the motion. At the conclusion of trial, defendant renewed its motion to dismiss. Claimant opposed the motion. The Court reserved decision on the motion.

Analysis

It is well established that the State is accorded absolute immunity for the actions of its employees involved in the investigation and prosecution of disciplinary charges brought against inmates in a correctional facility and for the actions of the hearing officer charged with presiding over and reviewing such matters. This immunity covers the aforenoted discretionary conduct due to its quasi-judicial nature, even if that discretion was erroneously exercised or the findings were subsequently overturned (see Arteaga v State of New York, 72 NY2d 212 [1988]; Holloway v State of New York, 285 AD2d 765 [3d Dept 2001]).

Absolute immunity may be lost, however, if the State acted in contravention of a governing rule or regulation which caused claimant to suffer actual prejudice or a deprivation of his due process rights (see Watson v State of New York, 125 AD3d 1064 [3d Dept 2015]; Davidson v State of New York, 66 AD3d 1089 [3d Dept 2009]). Here, while claimant maintains his innocence, he failed to establish any legally cognizable basis for finding that he was wrongfully confined as claimant has failed to establish that defendant acted in contravention of any governing rule or regulation which caused claimant to suffer actual prejudice or a deprivation of his due process rights (see Loret v State of New York, 106 AD3d 1159 [3d Dept 2013]). Accordingly, the Court concludes that claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of wrongful confinement (see Bottom v State of New York, 142 AD3d 1314, 1316 [4th Dept 2016]; Moustakos v State of New York, 133 AD3d 1268, 1270 [4th Dept 2015]).

With regard to claimant's bailment claim, it is noted that the State, as a bailee of an inmate's personal property, owes a common law duty to secure the property in its possession (see Pollard v State of New York, 173 AD2d 906 [3d Dept 1991]). A rebuttable presumption of negligence arises where it is established that the property was delivered to defendant with the understanding that it would be returned to claimant and that defendant subsequently failed to return the property or returned it in a damaged condition (see Reed v Cornell Univ., 138 AD3d 816 [2d Dept 2016]). Claimant's failure to make a prima facie showing requires dismissal of the claim. If, however, claimant makes a prima facie showing, then there is a presumption of liability and the burden shifts to defendant to come forward with evidence to overcome the presumption by establishing a non-negligent explanation for the loss of claimant's property.

Upon consideration of all the evidence, the Court finds that claimant failed to make a prima facie showing that defendant should be held liable for the loss of claimant's property. Notably, claimant did not specify the items which defendant allegedly took possession of and then failed to deliver to claimant in SHU. Nor did claimant present any proof of the value of the lost items. Therefore, the Court finds that claimant failed to establish that defendant should be held liable for the loss of claimant's unspecified property (see Grecco v Corbis Sygma, 281 AD2d 239 [1st Dept 2001]).

Accordingly, defendant's motion to dismiss, made at the conclusion of the trial, is now GRANTED.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED DISMISSING CLAIM NO. 124935.

June 14, 2018

White Plains, New York

WALTER RIVERA

Judge of the Court of Claims


1. All quotations are to the trial audio recording unless otherwise indicated.