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Karlene White, Respondent v. Health Conscious Natural Food

New York Supreme and/or Appellate Courts SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE TERM, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 2d, 11th and 13th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


June 11, 2012

KARLENE WHITE, RESPONDENT, --
v.
HEALTH CONSCIOUS NATURAL FOOD, WESTERN UNION, APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Queens County (Richard G. Latin, J.), entered September 14, 2010.

White v Health Conscious Natural Food

Decided on June 11, 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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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: RIOS, J.P., PESCE and ALIOTTA, JJ

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $1,025.

ORDERED that the judgment is modified by reducing the amount awarded plaintiff to the principal sum of $728; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff commenced this small claims action to recover the sum of $4,500 for unpaid wages. Following a non-jury trial, the Civil Court awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $1,025.

At trial, plaintiff testified that she had been employed by defendant at a daily wage of $75, that defendant had failed to pay her for two weeks of work as well as two days of training prior to the commencement of her employment, and that defendant had wrongfully deducted $378 from her wages for a loss defendant had incurred as a result of an error plaintiff allegedly had made during the course of her employment. Defendant's owner denied having underpaid plaintiff, but admitted that he had agreed to pay her for two days of training. Defendant testified, and plaintiff agreed, that following the termination of her employment, defendant had paid plaintiff $700.

Defendant was not entitled to withhold money from plaintiff's wages based on clerical errors she may have made during her work (see Labor Law § 193). It was undisputed that defendant had paid plaintiff in cash, and no records were introduced into evidence to support either party's contentions. The determination as to whether defendant had failed to pay plaintiff any wages due thus turned upon credibility findings.

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]). Furthermore, a determination of a trier of fact as to issues of credibility is given substantial deference, as the court has the opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses (see Vizzari v State of New York, 184 AD2d 564 [1992]; Kincade v Kincade, 178 AD2d 510, 511 [1991]). This standard applies with greater force to judgments rendered in the Small Claims Part of the court (see Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125 [2000]).

Upon a review of the record, we find support for the Civil Court's determination in favor of plaintiff on the issue of liability. However, plaintiff stated that defendant had agreed, but failed, to pay her a salary of $75 per day for 2 days of training and 12 days of work, for a total of $1,050, and also wrongfully withheld $378 from her salary based on plaintiff's alleged error, but that defendant subsequently had paid plaintiff $700. Based on those figures, we conclude that the parties' testimony supported, at most, a judgment in favor of plaintiff in the principal sum of $728, and that to the extent that the judgment exceeded that sum, it failed to render substantial justice between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law (CCA 1804, 1807).

Accordingly, the judgment is modified by reducing the amount awarded plaintiff to the principal sum of $728.

Rios, J.P., Pesce and Aliotta, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: June 11, 2012

20120611

© 1992-2012 VersusLaw Inc.



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