OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 6, 1999
ROY J. CUNNINGHAM
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Joy M. Cavallo, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for an unauthorized monetary
ithdrawal from his prison trust account at the Mt. Olive
Correctional Center, a facility owned and operated by respondent in
Fayette County. Claimant is currently incarcerated at this
correctional center. The Court is of the opinion to make an award
in this claim for the reasons more fully stated below.
Pursuant to West Virginia Code Section 28-5-6, a warden has a
duty to receive and take charge of an inmate's financial funds
during the inmate's term of incarceration. In fulfilling this
legislative mandate, the warden at Mt. Olive Correctional Center
employed several shopkeepers to operate a cooperative exchange at
the institution. Before funds are withdrawn from a prison trust
account, an inmate must present the inmate's photographic
institutional identification card to the storekeeper upon
appearance at the store window. The transaction is processed and
the inmate must then sign a sales receipt.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on or about
Saturday, March 7, 1998. On the day in question, claimant had the
sum of $1,364.96 in his prison trust account. Claimant went to the
cooperative exchange, presented his photographic identification
card, made a purchase in the amount of $45.92, and signed a sales
receipt. After this transaction, claimant made no further
transactions with the facility's cooperative exchange during the
week. However, on Sunday, March 8, 1998, respondent's employees
allowed an unidentified third party to make a withdraw in the
amount of $74.24 at the facility's cooperative exchange. Payment
for the unidentified third party's purchase was deducted from
claimant's prison trust account. Apparently, claimant's name was
forged on the sales receipt. Thereafter, claimant has attempted
and has been unsuccessful in obtaining reimbursement for the
When property of an inmate is recorded for the inmate and
taken for storage purposes, this Court has previously viewed such
situations as a bailment. Heard vs. Division of Corrections, 21
Ct. Cl. 151 (1997); Nolan vs. Division of Corrections, 19 Ct. Cl.
89 (1992). According to Black's Law Dictionary, a bailment is:
"A delivery of goods or personal property, by one person (bailor)
to another (bailee), in trust for the execution of a special object
upon or in relation to such goods, beneficial either to the bailor or bailee or both, and upon a contract, express or implied, to
perform the trust and carry out such object, and thereupon either
to redeliver the goods to the bailor or otherwise dispose of the
same in conformity with the purpose to the trust. The bailee is
responsible for exercising due care toward the goods." Id 95 (6th
Consequently, respondent, the bailee, must have satisfactory
documentation for management of the prison trust account for an
inmate, the bailor.
In this present claim, claimant has established a prima facie
case of bailment and negligent management of his prison trust
account. The evidence adduced at the October 7, 1999, hearing
demonstrated that there was a required delivery of claimant's
financial funds to respondent. Respondent failed reasonably to
account for claimant's prison trust account on March 8, 1999.
Therefore, the Court concludes that there was a bailment situation
and respondent was negligent in the manner in which it managed
claimant's prison trust account.
In view of the foregoing, the Court is of the opinion to and
does make an award in the amount of $74.24 to claimant.
Award of $74.24.