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Randal Ciriclio v. Reginald Beliveau

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


December 16, 2010

RANDAL CIRICLIO, APPELLANT,
v.
REGINALD BELIVEAU,
RESPONDENT.

Appeal from a decision of the Justice Court of the Village of Millbrook, Dutchess County (Louis M. Prisco, J.), entered April 1, 2009,

Ciriclio v Beliveau

Appellate Term, Second Department Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431. This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

Decided on December 16, 2010

PRESENT:NICOLAI, P.J., MOLIA and LaCAVA, JJ

deemed from a judgment of the same court entered October 19, 2009 (see CPLR 5520 [c]). The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded defendant $3,000 on his counterclaim and, in effect, dismissed plaintiff's cause of action.

ORDERED that the judgment is modified by providing that defendant's counterclaim is dismissed; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff brought this small claims action against defendant, his former tenant, seeking $2,411 for unpaid rent and damage to the premises. As an affirmative defense, defendant alleged that plaintiff's failure to correct a significant mold problem had forced defendant and his wife to leave the premises. Defendant also counterclaimed to recover the sum of $3,000, the monetary jurisdictional limit of the court (see UJCA 1801, 1805 [c]), alleging that plaintiff's failure to abate the mold problem had caused defendant's wife to incur medical expenses in excess of $3,000. After a non-jury trial, the Justice Court awarded defendant $3,000 on his counterclaim and, in effect, dismissed plaintiff's cause of action.

The decision of a fact-finding court should not be disturbed upon appeal unless it is obvious that the court's conclusions could not be reached under any fair interpretation of the evidence (see Claridge Gardens v Menotti, 160 AD2d 544 [1990]). This standard applies with greater force to judgments rendered in the Small Claims Part of the court (see Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]). The determination of the trier of fact as to issues of credibility is given substantial deference, as the trial court's opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses affords it a better perspective from which to assess their credibility (see Vizzari v State of New York, 184 AD2d 564 [1992]; Kincade v Kincade, 178 AD2d 510, 511 [1991]).

The Justice Court implicitly found that defendant had been constructively evicted from the apartment based on plaintiff's failure to correct a serious mold condition, and that plaintiff failed to prove that defendant had caused any damage to the apartment. As those findings are supported by the record, so much of the judgment as, in effect, dismissed plaintiff's cause of action provided the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (UJCA 1804, 1807; Ross v Friedman, 269 AD2d 584 [2000]; Williams, 269 AD2d at 126).

However, to the extent that the judgment awarded defendant $3,000 for his wife's medical bills, the judgment did not provide the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law. Defendant's wife was never made a party to the action. As defendant had no standing to sue for injuries to another, he should not have been awarded the $3,000. Moreover, it is noted that defendant failed to submit any substantial evidence that the medical bills in question were related to the mold problem.

Accordingly, we modify the judgment by dismissing defendant's counterclaim.

Nicolai, P.J., Molia and LaCava, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: December 16, 2010

20101216

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