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John J. Trane v. Kambiz Erfanian

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


January 24, 2012

JOHN J. TRANE,
APPELLANT, --
v.
KAMBIZ ERFANIAN,
RESPONDENT.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Nassau County, Second District (Tricia M. Ferrell, J.), entered June 21, 2010.

Trane v Erfanian

Decided on January 24, 2012

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, dismissed the action.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

In this small claims action, plaintiff seeks damages in the sum of $5,000 based on a claim of dental malpractice. After a non-jury trial, the District Court found in favor of defendant, and a judgment was entered dismissing the action.

The standard of review on appeal of a small claims judgment is whether "substantial justice has . . . been done between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law" (UDCA 1807). Resolution of issues of credibility is for the trier of fact, since it had the opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses (see McGuirk v Mugs Pub, 250 AD2d 824 [1998]; Richard's Home Ctr. & Lbr. v Kraft, 199 AD2d 254 [1993]), and its decision should not be disturbed on appeal unless it is obvious that its determination could not have been reached under any fair interpretation of the evidence (see Claridge Gardens v Menotti, 160 AD2d 544 [1990]). The deference normally accorded to the credibility determinations of a trial court "applies with greater force" in small claims proceedings, given the limited scope of review and the often attenuated record available on appeal (UDCA 1807; see Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]).

The plaintiff in a dental malpractice action must establish that the defendant departed from good and accepted dental practice and that such departure was a proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries (Cohen v Kalman, 54 AD3d 307 [2008]; Knutson v Sand, 282 AD2d 42 [2001]). Although small claims courts are held to a more relaxed standard concerning certain statutory rules of evidence (see UDCA 1804), a plaintiff in a small claims action for dental malpractice generally must establish the elements of malpractice through expert testimony (see Cava v Fox, 22 Misc 3d 132[A], 2008 NY Slip Op 52648[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2008]; Crennan v Omnicare Dental, 9 Misc 3d 127[A], 2005 NY Slip Op 51503[U] [App Term, 1st Dept 2005]).

A review of the record in the present case indicates that plaintiff failed to establish, through expert testimony, the elements of dental malpractice. Accordingly, as the District Court's determination provided the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (see UDCA 1804, 1807), the judgment is affirmed.

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

Decision Date: January 24, 2012

20120124

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