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Corinne Curley and James Curley v. Nina Maria Corp. Doing Business As Montessori School of Selden

December 5, 2011


Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Suffolk County, Sixth District (Stephen L. Ukeiley, J.), entered July 22, 2009.

Curley v Nina Maria Corp.

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.


The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiffs the principal sum of $750 and dismissed the counterclaim.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

In 2008, plaintiffs enrolled their daughter in a pre-school operated by defendant, known as the Montessori School of Selden (the School), for the 2008-2009 academic year. In 2009, plaintiffs withdrew their daughter from the School, and brought this small claims action to recover the full tuition they had paid the School, based on defendant's alleged misrepresentation respecting the School's certification by the Association of Montessori International (AMI). Defendant denied liability and counterclaimed for the tuition remaining unpaid under the contract between the parties.

At a non-jury trial, plaintiffs testified that they were familiar with AMI's methodology, and that they chose to enroll their daughter in defendant's School based on specific claims set forth in the School's promotional literature that it was AMI-certified, as well as oral representations made to them by the School's president, George Giangrande, to the same effect. They further testified that, upon noticing changes in their daughter's curriculum, they had made inquiries and learned that the School was not AMI-certified, whereupon they withdrew their daughter from the School and sought a tuition refund for the periods both when their daughter attended the School, and after she was withdrawn from it. Testifying in opposition to plaintiffs' claim and in support of defendant's counterclaim for the tuition that remained unpaid under the parties' contract, Giangrande stated that the School had been AMI-certified through approximately 2007, although not thereafter. However, he asserted that the School adhered to guidelines promulgated by the International Montessori Society (IMS).

Based upon its consideration of the evidence at trial and its determinations as to the credibility of the witnesses, the District Court awarded judgment to plaintiffs in the principal sum of $750, representing the tuition plaintiffs had paid to defendant School for the months after they withdrew their daughter, and dismissed the counterclaim. This appeal by defendant ensued.

"On a bench trial, the decision of the 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, especially when the findings of fact rest in large measure on considerations relating to the credibility of witnesses" (Claridge Gardens v Menotti, 160 AD2d 544, 544-545 [1990]; see also Vizzari v State of New York, 184 AD2d 564 [1992]; Kincade v Kincade, 178 AD2d 510 [1991]). This standard applies with greater force to judgments rendered in the Small Claims Part of the court, given the limited standard of review (Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]).

Since there was substantial evidence supporting the District Court's conclusions that plaintiffs were induced to enroll their daughter in defendant School based on defendant's misrepresentations as to its AMI certification, that plaintiffs relied upon these material misrepresentations in deciding to enroll their daughter in defendant's School, and that plaintiffs withdrew their daughter from defendant's School upon learning that it was not AMI-certified, we conclude that the District Court correctly determined that plaintiffs had a right to rescind the contract (see Seneca Wire & Mfg. Co. v Leach & Co., Inc., 247 NY 1 [1928]; Steen v Bump, 233 AD2d 583 [1996]; Brodsky v Nerud, 68 AD2d 876 [1979]; see also 22 NY Jur 2d, Contracts § 487).

Consequently, we find that the judgment rendered substantial justice between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law (UDCA 1804, 1807). Accordingly, the judgment is ...

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