SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK APPELLATE TERM: 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS
January 26, 2012
Appeal from a judgment of the Justice Court of the Town of Orangetown, Rockland County (Richard C. Finning, J.), entered June 16, 2010.
Rodriguez v Herrera
Decided on January 26, 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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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: LaCAVA, J.P., NICOLAI and IANNACCI, JJ
The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $2,800.
ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.
Plaintiff commenced this small claims action to recover the sum of $2,800 that he had paid to defendant, representing the first installment for his purchase of a vehicle which, he alleged, failed to work properly one week after the sale. At a non-jury trial, plaintiff testified that he had entered into an oral agreement with defendant to purchase the vehicle and that the engine had stopped working one week later. Defendant testified that he had not sold the vehicle to plaintiff, but that plaintiff was paying off a debt of a third party, to whom he had loaned money to purchase the vehicle, and that the agreement was a sale between plaintiff and that third party, and not between plaintiff and himself. Defendant claimed that multiple people had been present at the time of this alleged agreement. However, he failed to present these witnesses at trial, and the court explained to him that they needed to be present on the day of the trial.
In a decision after trial, the Justice Court credited plaintiff's version of the events, and judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff in the principal sum of $2,800. On appeal, defendant essentially argues that he was denied substantial justice (see UJCA 1807) because, at trial, he was unable to present his witnesses, who would support his version of the facts.
Our review of this small claims action is limited to determining
whether substantial justice was done between the parties according to
the rules and principles of substantive law (UJCA 1807). Even if an
appellate court differs with the small claims court on an arguable
point of fact or law, it should not reverse absent a showing that
there is no support in the record for the trial court's conclusions or
that they are otherwise so clearly erroneous as to deny substantial
justice (see Payne v Biglin, 2 Misc 3d 127[A], 2003 NY Slip Op
51694[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2003]). Resolution of issues of credibility
is for the trier of fact, as it had the opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and
demeanor of the witnesses (see McGuirk v Mugs Pub, 250 AD2d 824 ; Richard's Home
& Lbr. v Kraft, 199 AD2d 254 ). 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 (see Williams v Roper,
269 AD2d 125, 126 ).
In this case, the Justice Court apparently found plaintiff's version of the facts to be more credible than defendant's, and there is no reason for this court to disturb the Justice Court's determination in this regard. Moreover, the small claims court "must be given wide latitude and discretion in the conduct of the proceedings" (Buonomo v Stalker, 40 AD2d 733, 733 ; see also Roundtree v Singh, 143 AD2d 995 ), and it was not an improvident exercise of discretion for the Justice Court to limit the parties' presentation of evidence and witnesses to the scheduled trial date.
As substantial justice was done between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law (see UJCA 1807), the judgment is affirmed.
LaCava, J.P., Nicolai and Iannacci, JJ., concur.
Decision Date: January 26, 2012
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