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Katia C. Maguire v. American Airlines

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 2nd, 11th and 13th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


April 6, 2011

KATIA C. MAGUIRE,
RESPONDENT,
v.
AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC.,
APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County (Wavny Toussaint, J.), entered October 22, 2009.

Maguire v American Airlines, Inc.

Decided on April 6, 2011

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.

PRESENT:GOLIA, J.P., PESCE and RIOS, JJ .

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $5,000.

ORDERED that the judgment is reversed, without costs, and judgment is directed to be entered in favor of defendant dismissing the action.

In this small claims action, plaintiff seeks to recover the sum of $5,000 for camera equipment she had in her luggage, which was lost by defendant American Airlines, Inc. on September 23, 2008 on her flight to Seattle, Washington. At the non-jury trial, plaintiff acknowledged that, after she had purchased her ticket but prior to checking her baggage, she had received the terms and conditions of defendant's contract of carriage, which limited defendant's liability for lost luggage to the sum of $3,300 and expressly excluded any coverage for camera equipment.

Appellate review of a small claims judgment is limited to determining whether "substantial justice has . . . been done between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law" (CCA 1807; see Moses v Randolph, 236 AD2d 706, 707 [1997]; see also Ross v Friedman, 269 AD2d 584 [2000]), and the deference normally accorded to the credibility determinations of a trial court "applies with greater force" in small claims proceedings (Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]). However, reversal may be warranted when the trial court's conclusions are so clearly erroneous as to deny substantial justice (see Salvia v Dyer, 21 Misc 3d 140[A], 2008 NY Slip Op 52359[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2008]; Payne v Biglin, 2 Misc 3d 127[A], 2003 NY Slip Op 51694[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2003]).

Carriers are permitted to limit their liability for lost luggage by contract, provided that reasonable notice is given to the passenger (see Casas v American Airlines, Inc., 304 F3d 517 [5th Cir 2002]). Courts have applied a "reasonable communications" test in determining whether a passenger was provided with adequate notice of a baggage limitation of liability (see Casas, 304 F3d at 524; Bary v Delta Airlines, Inc., 2009 WL 3260499, *13 [ED NY 2009]).

The evidence adduced at trial established that plaintiff had in fact received notice of the terms and conditions of defendant's contract of carriage, which included an express exclusion of coverage for camera equipment, before she had checked her luggage with defendant. Consequently, the judgment in favor of plaintiff failed to render substantial justice between the parties in accordance with the rules and principles of substantive law (CCA 1807).

Accordingly, the judgment is reversed and judgment is directed to be entered in favor of defendant dismissing the action.

Golia, J.P., Pesce and Rios, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: April 06, 2011

20110406

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