OPINION ISSUED DECEMBER 6, 1999
THOMAS E. GARDNER, JR.
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS
Claimant appeared pro se.
Joy M. Cavallo, Attorney at Law, for respondent.
Claimant brought this action for the loss of his personal
roperty by respondent's employees while in the custody of
respondent. Claimant is currently a resident of Harrison County,
but at the time of the incident he was incarcerated in respondent's
facilities. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this
claim for the reasons more fully stated below.
The incident giving rise to this claim occurred on or about
February 8, 1994, at approximately 3:30 p.m. On the day in
question, claimant was incarcerated at the Moundsville
Penitentiary. At the time, claimant's personal belongings were
seized and documented by Officer Richard S. Strope Included in
claimant's personal belongings were a wedding band, engagement
ring, bracelet, West Virginia logo pendant, and a Sony walkman
radio with headphones. Claimant's personal belongings were then
transferred to another one of respondent's employees at Moundsville
Penitentiary. During claimant's period of incarceration, both he
and his personal property were to be transferred to the
Huttonsville Correctional Center, next to the Denmar Correctional
Center, before finally being transferred to St. Mary's Correctional
Center. Following claimant's release from St. Mary's Correctional
Center on April 22, 1999, respondent was unable to account for
claimant's personal property. The estimated value of claimant's
personal property was in the sum of $250.00.
When personal property of an inmate is recorded for the inmate
and then taken for storage purposes, this Court has previously
viewed such situations as a bailment. 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, as the bailee, must have satisfactory
documentation for return of the property to the inmate, the bailor.
Heard vs. Division of Corrections, 21 Ct. Cl. 151 (1997). Claimant has the burden of proof to demonstrate by a preponderance of the
evidence that there was a delivery of claimant's property to
respondent before a prima facie case is established for the failure
to return items claim accrues. Nolan vs. Division of Corrections,
19 Ct. Cl. 89 (1992).
In the instant claim, claimant has established a prima facie
case of bailment and negligent care of his personal property. The
evidence adduced at the October 14, 1999, hearing demonstrated that
there was a delivery of claimant's property to respondent.
Respondent, as the bailee, failed reasonably to document and
account for claimant's personal property since the time he first
entered into the custody of respondent.
In view of the foregoing, the Court is of the opinion to and
does make an award in the amount of $250.00 to claimant.
Award of $250.00.