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Charlene Amodeo v. Hvhc

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


May 24, 2011

CHARLENE AMODEO,
APPELLANT,
v.
HVHC, MIKE KIZUN AND MICHELE KIZUN,
RESPONDENTS.

Appeal, on the ground of inadequacy, from a judgment of the City Court of Newburgh, Orange County (Peter M. Kulkin, J.), entered June 17, 2009. The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the sumof $1.

Amodeo v HVHC

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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 May 24, 2011

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

ORDERED that the judgment is modified by increasing the amount awarded to plaintiff to the principal sum of $312.34; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff commenced this small claims action against her former landlords to recover for, among other things, damage to her personal property resulting from conditions in the rental unit. After a non-jury trial, the City Court awarded plaintiff the sum of $1, apparently as "nominal damages." The City Court found that plaintiff was entitled to $312.34 in damages, but offset the award by $400 in rent money that plaintiff had admittedly withheld from defendant. Plaintiff appeals.

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]). Furthermore, 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]). This standard applies with greater force to judgments rendered in the Small Claims Part of the court (see Williams, 269 AD2d at 126). Accordingly, we do not disturb the City Court's determination to the extent that it found that plaintiff suffered damages in the sum of $312.34.

However, the record does not support the City Court's determination that plaintiff was not entitled to a rent abatement of $400. Consequently, we find that the City Court improperly offset the $312.34 in damages suffered by plaintiff by the $400 in rent that plaintiff withheld. Accordingly, we conclude that the judgment awarding plaintiff the principal sum of $1 did not provide the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (UCCA 1804, 1807; see Ross v Friedman, 269 AD2d 584 [2000]; Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]), and increase the award in plaintiff's favor to the principal sum of $312.34.

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

Decision Date: May 24, 2011

20110524

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