IN THE LEGISLATIVE CLAIMS COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
Claimant appeared pro se.
Briana J. Marino, Assistant Attorney General, for the Respondent.
The Claimant filed this claim to recover the value of certain personal property that he alleged was lost while under the care of the Respondent.
At the hearing, the Claimant testified that he was incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Complex and was placed in the segregation unit on October 4, 2018. While in segregation, his personal property was to be inventoried and stored in the Respondent’s State Shop. The Claimant should have received a property seizure and inventory report depicting what property had been taken from his cell and placed in storage. The Claimant was released from segregation on October 31, 2018. As he inventoried his personal property following his return to general population, he discovered that some of his property was missing and other items were damaged. The missing items included religious books, magazines, CD’s, other adult magazines, religious items and drawings, a law dictionary, photographs and a pair of shorts. He was notified, in writing, by the State Shop that he needed to establish proof of ownership for some of his books and magazines in order for them to be returned to him since they did not have his name and identification number. The Claimant identified two religious books and a law dictionary as missing from his property. He testified that his attorneys had provided these books to him. He also testified that although his offender identification number was not written inside the front cover, his name was written there. He asserted at the hearing that he did not receive the required property seizure and inventory forms following his transfer to segregation on October 4, 2018. The Claimant exhausted his administrative remedies and filed this claim with the Legislative Claims Commission. The Claimant placed a value of $2,3330.50 on his lost and missing property. He submitted several receipts, invoices and prior property cards and inventory reports to establish his ownership of the items and the value of some of the items claimed as lost. The Claimant further testified that two of the lost items were religious items that he had crafted himself for use in the practice of his religious beliefs, and accordingly, there are no receipts available for those items.
The Respondent disputed the validity of the claim in its pleadings and in the hearing. The Respondent asserted that certain items claimed as lost were not included on the Claimant’s personal property card as required pursuant to the Respondent’s Policy Directives. Additionally, some items lacked the Claimant’s name and Offender Identification Number as required. As to other items listed in the Claimant’s claim, the Respondent challenged the monetary value assigned by the Claimant, specifically the book the Claimant valued at $2,000.00 and submitted evidence that the book could be purchased at a much lower price from sources available to the Claimant.
This Commission is aware that the Respondent does not have a fiscal method available to it for paying claims of this nature. As such, the claim has been submitted to this Commission for determination.
In West Virginia, when a bailment situation is created, a duty or “obligation to exercise reasonable and ordinary care for the safety of the property so delivered” is imposed upon the bailee. Barnette v. Casey, 124 W. Va. 143, 19 S.E.2d 621 (1942). This Commission has previously held that a bailment situation exists when the Respondent records the personal property of an inmate and takes it for storage purposes, and then has no satisfactory explanation for not returning it. Page v. Division of Corrections, 23 Ct. Cl.238 (2000); Heard v. Division of Corrections, 21 Ct. Cl. 146 (1997).
Upon consideration of the evidence filed in this claim and the testimony given at the hearing, the Commission finds that a bailment existed between the Claimant and the Respondent. The Respondent had a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care with respect to the Claimant’s property but failed to do so on the date of the incident.
Accordingly, this Commission is of the opinion to make an award to the Claimant herein in the amount of $403.67.
Award of $403.67.