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Ralph Strafaci and Patricia Coffey v. Meadowbrook Pointe Development Corp

SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS Appellate Term, Second Department


December 5, 2011

RALPH STRAFACI AND PATRICIA COFFEY,
RESPONDENTS,
v.
MEADOWBROOK POINTE DEVELOPMENT CORP.,
APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Nassau County, First District (Terence P. Murphy, J.), entered March 12, 2010.

Strafaci v Meadowbrook Pointe Dev. Corp.

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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 5, 2011

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

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiffs the principal sum of $2,500, plus interest of $383.42.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiffs commenced this small claims action against their former landlord to recover a security deposit in the amount of $2,500, plus interest that had accrued thereon. After a non-jury trial, the District Court awarded plaintiffs the $2,500 security deposit, plus interest of $383.42. On appeal, defendant argues that the court should have set off defendant's cost of repairing damage to the bathroom tiles, which had to be replaced, against the amount of the award, and that interest on the security deposit should have been awarded only from the date plaintiffs had moved out of the premises, not from the commencement of the lease.

Upon a review of the record, we find that the judgment provided the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (UDCA 1804, 1807; see Ross v Friedman, 269 AD2d 584 [2000]; Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]). 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 at 126). Furthermore, the determination of a 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 District Court properly determined that the security deposit remained the property of plaintiffs (General Obligations Law § 7-103 [1]) and had to be returned at the conclusion of the tenancy (Cruz v Diamond, 6 Misc 3d 134[A], 2005 NY Slip Op 50187[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2005]) absent, for example, proof that plaintiffs had caused damage beyond that attributable to ordinary wear and tear (see generally Finnerty v Freeman, 176 Misc 2d 220, 222 [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 1998]), and that defendant did not establish that the conditions about which it complained were attributable to plaintiffs. The court also properly determined that pursuant to the lease, interest on the security deposit was to be awarded from the commencement of the lease. As the record fails to support defendant's claims, we affirm the judgment.

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

Decision Date: December 05, 2011

20111205

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