New York Supreme and/or Appellate Courts SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE TERM, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS
March 5, 2012
MICHAEL BURNS, APPELLANT,
VICTORIA L. KAPLAN, RESPONDENT.
Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Suffolk County, Fourth District (Kevin J. Crowley, J.), entered May 21, 2010.
Burns v Kaplan
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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.
Decided on March 5, 2012
PRESENT: NICOLAI, P.J., LaCAVA and IANNACCI, JJ
The judgment, after a non-jury trial, dismissed the action.
ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.
Plaintiff, a psychotherapist, brought this small claims action against defendant, his former patient, to recover for an unpaid psychotherapy session plus a late charge after defendant missed an appointment without giving him advance notice in accordance with the terms of the parties' "Psychotherapy Treatment Agreement." Defendant claimed that she was unable to give plaintiff advance notice due to a medical emergency. After a non-jury trial, the District Court found in favor of defendant and a judgment was entered dismissing the action.
Our review is limited to determining whether substantial justice was done between the parties "according to the rules and principles of substantive law" (UDCA 1807). Moreover, the decision of a fact-finding court should not be disturbed on 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 ). 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 ). Furthermore, 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 ; Kincade v Kincade, 178 AD2d 510, 511 ).
The District Court's conclusion that defendant was unable to make her appointment because of an asthma attack turned on its determination regarding the credibility of the witnesses (see Williams, 269 AD2d 125). The District Court was aware of the relationship between the defense witness and defendant, and could take this relationship into account in assessing his testimony. With respect to plaintiff's contention that certain medical documents pertaining to defendant were not admissible, we note that the small claims court is not strictly bound by the rules of evidence (UDCA 1804). As the record supports the District Court's conclusion, we find no basis to disturb the judgment.
Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.
Nicolai, P.J., LaCava and Iannacci, JJ., concur.
Decision Date: March 05, 2012
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