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 he was taken to segregation at Huttonsville Correctional Center on September 27, 2018. His property was packed up and stored by the Respondent’s officers. Following his release from segregation, his property was returned to him. He testified that he then discovered that his watch, CD player and a pair of tennis shoes were missing from his personal property. He filed a grievance at Huttonsville regarding the lost CD player, but did not pursue any further action on the grievance. He did not file a grievance for either the watch or the tennis shoes. He was transferred to Mount Olive Correctional Complex on December 12, 2018. The Claimant testified that his watch was eventually found and returned to him so that only the CD player and the tennis shoes remained missing.
The Respondent denied the validity of the claim in its pleadings and at the hearing. The Respondent asserted that because the Claimant did not comply with the provisions of the West Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, his claim filed with the Legislative Claims Commission was statutorily barred.
The West Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, found in West Virginia Code §25-1A-1 et. seq., sets forth the policies and procedures to be followed by inmates who choose to file civil actions against a West Virginia penal institution. A prisoner is required to utilize the “ordinary administrative remedy” of the Respondent’s grievance system before filing a civil action for general concerns regarding ordinary aspects of prison life. This would include issues pertaining to lost or stolen personal property of an inmate. Specifically, West Virginia Code §25-1A-2(c) states:
An inmate may not bring a civil action regarding an ordinary administrative remedy until the procedures promulgated by the agency have been exhausted.
The Respondent’s grievance system is set forth in Policy Directive 335.00, titled “Inmate Grievance Procedures”. Pursuant to this policy, all inmates must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a civil action, or in this instance, a claim with the West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission. All documents that demonstrate a prisoner’s compliance with the Respondent’s grievance system must be included as exhibits for all incarceration claims filed with the Legislative Claims Commission.
While the Claimant submitted some documents and exhibits in support of his claim, these documents do not establish that he complied with the provisions of the administrative remedy process of West Virginia Code §25-1A-1 et. seq., even though the Claimant was advised of the proper grievance procedure to follow prior to the filing of this Claim before the Legislative Claims Commission. Indeed, the Claimant filed only the first level of grievance on his CD player and did not pursue any appeals and he filed no grievances regarding the lost watch or lost tennis shoes.
Accordingly, the Legislative Claims Commission hereby finds that the West Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, West Virginia Code §25-1A-1 et. seq. controls the disposition of this claim and the Claimant is required to exhaust all administrative remedies set forth therein before any claim can be filed before this tribunal. Because the Claimant failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing his claim, he is statutorily barred from proceeding with any claims before the Legislative Claims Commission.
Based on the foregoing, the Legislative Claims Commission is of the opinion to, and does hereby, deny the Claimant’s claim.