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 damaged and 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.
The Claimant was incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Complex. At the hearing, he testified that on February 4, 2019, he was transferred from general population to segregation. Pursuant to the Respondent’s policies, he requested that his allowable property be brought to him in segregation. When he received his property, he realized that he left his tennis shoes on the general population pod. He believed the shoes were lost or stolen since he did not receive them while he was in segregation. He testified that he filed a grievance on the matter which was denied. He did not pursue any further levels of the grievance process.
The Respondent denied the validity of the claim in its pleadings and at the hearing. The Respondent asserted that the Claimant’s tennis shoes were not listed on his individual property inventory card, which was submitted into evidence. The Respondent further asserted that the Claimant failed to comply with the provisions of the West Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act set forth in West Virginia Code §25-1A-1 et seq. and therefore, therefore, the Claimant’s claim must be disallowed.
The Respondent’s witness, Craig Roberts, testified that when an inmate is transferred from one facility to another, the inmate is searched and all of the property they bring with them, along with any items, including clothing and shoes, on their person is inventoried and listed on their property inventory sheet. Mr. Roberts also testified that the intake inventory report lists all of the property a transferring inmate brings with him and includes all the clothing he is wearing at the time of transfer, including shoes. In the Claimant’s instance, his property inventory report does not list the Claimant as having tennis shoes at the time his intake at Mount Olive was completed.
Turning to the issue of the Claimant’s grievance and failure to complete the appeal process, 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.
Upon consideration of the evidence filed in this claim and the testimony given at the hearing, the Claims Commission finds that the West Virginia Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, West Virginia Code §25-1A-1 et. seq. controls the disposition of this claim. The Claimant is required to exhaust all administrative remedies set forth therein before any claim can be filed with this tribunal. Because the Claimant failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing his claim, he is statutorily barred from proceeding with any claim before the Legislative Claims Commission. Moreover, the Claims Commission finds that the Claimant did not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that his tennis shoes were delivered to the Respondent so as to create a bailment situation between the Claimant and the Respondent. Similarly, the Claimant did not provide sufficient evidence to the Claims Commission to establish that the Respondent was liable for the alleged damage to or loss of the Claimant’s property.
Based on the foregoing, the Legislative Claims Commission is of the opinion to, and does hereby, deny the Claimant’s claim.