OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 4, 2000
ROBERT BOWERS, III
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Joy M. Bolling, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.
Claimant, an inmate at Mount Olive Correctional Complex,
brought this claim to recover the value of items which he had
ordered and which he was not allowed to possess. These items were
destroyed by personnel at the Complex. Mount Olive Correctional
Complex is a facility of respondent in Fayette County. The Court
is of the opinion to deny this claim for the reasons more fully set
Claimant ordered a clip-on-light and a four-quart food storage
container from a specialized catalog approved for use by inmates.
The four-quart food storage container was not approved by the
facility. Pursuant to Mount Olive Correctional Complex Operational
Procedure Number 3.10, the clip-on-light was allowed by the
facility. Unbeknownst to claimant, the Deputy Warden had given a
verbal directive that new clip-on-lights were to be restricted and
no longer approved for use by the inmates. The value of the
clip-on-light and the food storage container were $6.25 and $1.75,
respectively. When the items arrived at the facility on or about
the 20th day of March, 2000, these were confiscated by the State
Shop. Respondent, in a memorandum dated the 4th day of April,
2000, informed claimant that he was not allowed to possess the
clip-on-light and that it had been confiscated. The memorandum
further stated that claimant had seven days to inform the State
Shop whether to return the items or allow them to be destroyed.
Claimant asserts that this time frame did not allow him sufficient
time to appeal the decision. Thus, the items were destroyed.
The position of respondent is that it was not responsible for
the demise of the ordered items. According to Assistant Warden of
Operations Tim Whittington, he was given a verbal directive from
the Deputy Warden to disallow new clip-on-lights from the facility.
Moreover, the Deputy Warden is the individual responsible for
issuing such a memorandum to inmates regarding a change in the
operating policy. Mr. Whittington further testified that claimant
was given an option as to how the property was to be disposed.
Claimant chose to allow the property to be destroyed and in the
process, suffered a loss.
In the present claim, the Court is of the opinion that
claimant sustained a loss as a result of the actions of respondent.
However, the Court is further of the opinion that the maxim de
minimis non curat lex is applicable to this claim. This venerable principle of the common law stands for the proposition that the law
does not care for, or take notice of, very small or trifling
matters. Black's Law Dictionary, 297 (6th ed. 1990). According to
this principle, mere nominal damages proved as a matter of set-off
or recoupment are disregarded in the ascertainment of the amount
due a claimant. Harper vs. Coal & Land Co., 80 W.Va. 246; 92 S.E.
565 (1917). The Court has determined that the controversy in this
claim involves damages which are inconsequential. Consequently,
this claim should be disallowed.
In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law
stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to deny this