IN THE LEGISLATIVE CLAIMS COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
CHARLES M. WENTZ
WEST VIRGINIA DIVISION OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION
Claimant appeared pro se.
Briana J. Marino, Assistant Attorney General, for the Respondent.
The Claimant brought this action alleging that his personal property was lost while in the custody of the Respondent.
The Claimant and the Respondent, through its counsel, appeared for a hearing before the Legislative Claims Commission on May 2, 2019.
The Claimant is presently incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Complex. The Claimant testified that prior to August 5, 2018, he was incarcerated at Stevens Correctional Center. The Claimant testified that each inmate has a lockbox for the storage of their personal property. Each inmate within the cell is responsible for placing their property in the lockbox before they leave the cell for any reason. On August 5, 2018 he left Stevens Correctional Center. He testified that he was transferred to Mount Olive Correctional Center due to a rules infraction. While at Mount Olive, he discovered that most of the personal property he had at Stevens Correctional Center was now missing. He believes that his personal property was removed from his lockbox and left unattended in the facility’s State Shop which gave others an opportunity to steal his property. His personal property items included several CD’s, Skullcandy headphones, a CD player, sweatpants, sweatshirts, socks, several Xbox video games, tennis shoes, books, and eyeglasses. The Claimant testified that he filed a grievance regarding his missing property which was ultimately denied by the Respondent’s Commissioner. The Claimant placed a value of $713.35 on his property; the Claimant did not submit any invoices, receipts, or other documentation in support of his claim.
Upon cross-examination, the Claimant testified that he left Stevens Correctional Center on August 5, 2018 by escaping from the facility during his recreational time. He left his property in the lockbox in his cell; he did not take any of his property with him when he escaped from the prison facility. Because he had already fled the facility, he did not witness anything that involved his personal property on August 5, 2018 or in the days following. The Claimant testified that he was apprehended in Lawrence County, Ohio on August 10, 2018 and did not have any of his personal property in his possession, other than the clothes he was wearing when he escaped. He further testified that he did not make arrangements for his property to be stored or mailed out to a relative prior to his fleeing the facility.
The Respondent denied the validity of the claim in its pleadings and at the hearing. The Respondent asserted that by escaping from Stevens Correctional Center, the Claimant forfeited and abandoned his property. The Claimant’s escape demonstrated an intent to not only abandon his property but also an intent not to return for his property. The Claimant’s intentions severed the bailment relationship between the Claimant and the Respondent and therefore, abrogated any duties the Respondent had for the care of his personal property.
The Claimant has failed to provide the Claims Commission with many necessary facts of this claim, including a date as to when his property was allegedly lost. While the Claimant did provide copies of his grievances, he only provided limited inventory cards; the inventory cards he did submit were incomplete and did not correspond to the property that he claimed was lost by the Respondent. Lastly, the Claimant failed to submit any receipts, invoices or other documentation to establish the value of the allegedly lost property.
After duly considering the facts, the testimony of the witnesses and the exhibits submitted in this claim, the Legislative Claims Commission hereby finds that, by escaping, the Claimant demonstrated an intent to leave the facility without thought to return and thereby abandoned his personal property at the Respondent’s facility. The Claims Commission further finds that the Claimant’s escape severed the bailment relationship between the Claimant and the Respondent and negated any duties that the Respondent may have owed to the Claimant regarding the care of his property. The Claimant failed to submit sufficient evidence to the Claims Commission to establish that the Respondent was liable for the alleged loss of the Claimant’s property and failed to meet the burden of proof in order to prevail on his claim.
Based on the foregoing, the Legislative Claims Commission is of the opinion to, and does hereby, deny the Claimant’s claim.