Raishevich v. Foster

247 F.3d 337 (2nd Cir. 2001)


P assembled a collection of photographic transparencies of cannabis, or marijuana, plants. Police arrested P and seized numerous items from his home, including 347 transparencies from his cannabis collection. P requested that the police return his transparencies, but they were destroyed by D, an evidence custodian for the New York State Police. P brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, seeking damages for the destruction of his photographic transparencies. He also sought an award of attorneys' fees. D conceded liability. A settlement conference was held, and D’s attorney misrepresented his settlement authority, but no settlement was ever reached. At trial, P produced little evidence of his past earnings from his now-destroyed transparencies. After receiving conflicting evidence regarding the value of the transparencies, the District Court found that $200 was the proper measure of the actual value of each transparency. The court, without any real or credible evidence, held that P's peak publication rate was two prints per year. This yielded sixty uses of his destroyed transparencies over a thirty-year period or damages of $12,000. The District Court then doubled the award to $24,000 because D's destruction of the transparencies may have hindered P's ability to prove his damages with greater specificity. The parties should bear their own costs and attorneys' fees. The court then reduced the award on D’s motion back to $12,000 and denied P’s motion to increase the award beyond $24,000. P appealed.