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Melinda Stillwaggon v. David Klopfenstein

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


June 28, 2011

MELINDA STILLWAGGON,
APPELLANT,
v.
DAVID KLOPFENSTEIN, MICHAEL COLSON AND LAURA COLSON,
RESPONDENTS.

Appeal on the ground of inadequacy from a judgment of the District Court of Suffolk County, Fifth District (James P. Flanagan, J.), entered April 9, 2010. The judgment, insofar as appealed from, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $2,100.

Stillwaggon v Klopfenstein

Decided on June 28, 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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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: NICOLAI, P.J., MOLIA and IANNACCI, JJ

ORDERED that the judgment, insofar as appealed from, is affirmed, without costs.

In this small claims action to recover a security deposit in the sum of $3,317, defendants, plaintiff's former landlords, interposed a counterclaim seeking to recover rent for June and July 2009 in the total sum of $2,600. After a non-jury trial, the District Court awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $2,100. Plaintiff appeals on the ground of inadequacy.

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]).

Upon a review of the record, we are of the view that defendants breached the lease agreement when they failed to complete certain renovations to the rental property by May 1, 2009 in accordance with a rider to the lease, thereby entitling plaintiff to a refund of her security deposit. Nevertheless, defendants properly applied $1,300 of plaintiff's security deposit toward payment of the June 2009 rent because plaintiff did not remove from the leased premises until after June 1, 2009 (see Cortez v Triple R Bldg., Inc., 19 Misc 3d 135[A], 2008 NY Slip Op 50711[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2008]; Latuso v Noulas, 18 Misc 3d 126[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 52361[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2007]; 2 Dolan, Rasch's Landlord and Tenant--Summary Proceedings § 26:36, at 311 [4th ed]). Accordingly, the District Court properly awarded plaintiff the net sum of $2,100. As we find that the judgment, insofar as appealed from, provided the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (see UDCA 1804, 1807), it is affirmed.

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

Decision Date: June 28, 2011

20110628

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