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Ralph Hinkle v. London Correctional Institution

June 29, 2011

RALPH HINKLE
PLAINTIFF
v.
LONDON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
DEFENDANT



Cite as Hinkle v. London Corr. Inst.,

The Ohio Judicial Center 65 South Front Street, Third Floor Columbus, OH 43215 614.387.9800 or 1.800.824.8263 www.cco.state.oh.us

Deputy Clerk Daniel R. Borchert

MEMORANDUM DECISION

FINDINGS OF FACT

{¶1} Plaintiff, Ralph Hinkle, an inmate incarcerated at defendant's Lebanon Correctional Facility (LoCI), filed this action alleging multiple items of his personal property were lost or stolen while under the control of LoCI staff. Plaintiff explained he was transferred from the LoCI general population to a disciplinary unit on June 27, 2010, and he was ordered to open both his wall and his foot locker before the transfer. According to plaintiff, LoCI staff left his property unattended for an unspecified period of time and such action facilitated the theft of plaintiff's property by other unidentified inmates. Plaintiff asserted that when he regained possession of his property on July 15, 2010, he discovered several items were missing including: a wedding band, a fan, a pair of headphones, a walkman radio, a pair of work boots, four pairs of boxer shorts, a blanket, a cup, a bowl, and state-issued reading glasses and coat.*fn1 Plaintiff valued the alleged missing property items at $241.52. Payment of the filing fee was waived.

{¶2} Plaintiff submitted a copy of his June 27, 2010 "Inmate Property Record" (inventory) compiled when he was originally transferred to segregation. None of the alleged missing property is listed on this inventory with the exception of three pair of undershorts.

{¶3} Defendant denied liability in this matter and contended that plaintiff failed to prove that any theft of his property occurred as a result of negligence on behalf of LoCI staff. Defendant specifically denied leaving plaintiff's property unattended "at any point during its pack-up." Defendant submitted a memorandum from DeCarlo Blackwell, LoCI's Institutional Inspector, which stated that, "upon interviewing Officer Thornton, he indicated that when Captain Sickle informed him to pack you up that he was still standing there until he returned with the garbage bags. This is when he packed up your property. Officer Thornton indicated that he consulted with your 'bunkie' to find out what belonged to you and what belonged to him. Again, the property was never left unsecured. [Plaintiff's] property was only out of sight from Officer Thornton when he was instructed by Captain Sickle to obtain a garbage bag to pack up the inmate's property. Officer Thornton stated he personally packed up the inmate's property and had it escorted to the Yard Officer who in turn took it to the Vault where it was inventoried. There was no violation by staff. The proper pack-up procedures were followed."

{¶4} Plaintiff filed a response essentially reiterating the allegations contained in his complaint.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

{¶5} In order to prevail, plaintiff must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant owed him a duty, that defendant breached that duty, and that defendant's breach proximately caused his injuries. Armstrong v. Best Buy Company, Inc., 99 Ohio St. 3d 79, 2003-Ohio-2573,¶8 citing Menifee v. Ohio Welding Products, Inc. (1984), 15 Ohio St. 3d 75, 77, 15 OBR 179, 472 N.E. 2d 707.

{¶6} "Whether a duty is breached and whether the breach proximately caused an injury are normally questions of fact, to be decided by . . . the court . . ." Pacher v. Invisible Fence of Dayton, 154 Ohio App. 3d 744, 2003-Ohio-5333,¶41; Mussivand v. David (1989), 45 Ohio St. 3d 314, 318, 544 N.E. 2d 265.

{¶7} Although not strictly responsible for a prisoner's property, defendant had at least the duty of using the same degree of care as it would use with its own property. Henderson v. Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (1979), 76-0356-AD.

{¶8} This court in Mullett v. Department of Correction (1976), 76-0292-AD, held that defendant does not have the liability of an insurer (i.e., is not liable without fault) with respect to inmate property, but that it does have the duty to make "reasonable attempts to protect, or recover" such property.

{ΒΆ9} Plaintiff has the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that he suffered a loss and that this loss was proximately caused by defendant's negligence. ...


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