OPINION ISSUED APRIL 2, 1992
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS
Claimant represents self.
John E. Shank, Deputy Attorney General, for respondent.
On or about April, 1990, the claimant's 17-year-old daughter, Robin Nolan, was admitted to the
Salem Youth Center for a 30 day evaluation. The claimant alleges that her daughter was in
possession of three rings and two sets of earrings upon entering respondent's facility, but that the
items were not returned to her daughter upon her departure from respondent's facility, or thereafter.
Claimant's daughter testified that the jewelry included three rings of which two were birthstone rings,
and one was a diamond cluster ring, and five earrings. A receipt of unspecified purpose, but
appearing to represent the purchase price of a $74.15 diamond cluster ring, was introduced into
evidence, along with an installment contract executed by a Helen Crawford, involving a $52.95
birthstone ring. No other documentation was provided to establish the purchase, ownership, or
replacement cost(s) of this jewelry. Accordingly, the Court may not speculate as to the existence or
value of a third ring, or the earrings.
The claimant's daughter further testified that no inventory of her possession was made when she
entered the respondent's facility, nor did she sign an inventory list. In the absence in accounting for
this personalty, the Court may not create or speculate as to same. In actions such as this the claimant
as a bailor must prove that a delivery to the respondent bailee occurred before a prima facie case is
established for the bailee's failure to return the items. In other words, the bailor has the burden of
proof. Only when the bailee has acknowledged possession of goods does the bailor's cause of action
accrue. Under the present facts and circumstances, the absence of an inventory precludes the Court
from further consideration of the claim. The bailor's evidence must be more than surmise and
conjecture, for the Court to consider this matter. W.Va. Code §46-7-102(1)(a) and 46-7-403(1)(b)
only shift the burden of going forward with the evidence where the bailee has acknowledged
possession of items, and thus is under a duty of reasonable care to return same. Since the claimant's
daughter has no receipt for the items of jewelry alleged to have been deposited with the respondent
and witnesses, Deputy Fred R. Daily of the Cabell County Sheriff's Office, and his wife, Mrs. Peggy
Daily, both testified that they did not notice the jewelry when transporting her to and from the
respondent's facility, the claimant has failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence and
bailment. The duties and responsibilities of a bailee cannot be thrust upon one without knowledge
and acceptance of the subject matter. 2C Michie's Jurisprudence, Bailments, §3, p.123.
Accordingly, this claim must be disallowed.