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.
The Claimant and the Respondent, through its counsel, appeared for a hearing before the Legislative Claims Commission on December 4, 2019.
At the hearing, the Claimant testified that in May, 2019, the Respondent’s employees searched his cell. During the search, one of the officers dropped one of the Claimant’s CD’s on the floor, damaging the CD. Another of the Claimant’s CD’s sustained damage when the officer inspected the case holding the CD. The Claimant testified that the officer conducting the search discussed the damaged CD’s with him and apologized for accidentally damaging them. He exhausted his administrative remedies before filing this claim. The Claimant placed a value of $30.26 on his lost and damaged property.
The Respondent denied the validity of the claim in its pleadings and in the hearing.
The Claimant served Requests for Admission on the Respondent pursuant to Rule 36 of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. In accordance with Rule 36, any requests for admission not expressly denied within 30 days of service are deemed admitted and admissible as evidence. The Respondent’s investigation into the events surrounding the Claimant’s allegations was completed shortly before the scheduled hearing and as such, the Respondent was unable to fully respond to the Requests for Admission. However, the Claims Commission finds that the Requests for Admission submitted by the Claimant are consistent with the testimony and evidence provided at the hearing and the law applicable to the final determination of his claim.
This Commission is aware that the Respondent does not have a fiscal method available to it for paying claims of this nature. The Commission notes that the Respondent offered to replace the paper CD case with a sturdier plastic jewel CD case; this offer was accepted by the Claimant. As such, the claim has been submitted to this Commission for determination with respect to only the one CD that sustained the scratches from being dropped on the floor.
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 $9.97.
Award of $9.97.