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Edwin Morris, Respondent v. Bonita Morris

New York Supreme and/or Appellate Courts SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE TERM, SECOND DEPARTMENT, 9th and 10th JUDICIAL DISTRICTS


August 6, 2012

EDWIN MORRIS, RESPONDENT, --
v.
BONITA MORRIS, APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Nassau County, Fourth District (Gary Knobel, J.), entered June 10, 2010.

Morris v Morris

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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 August 6, 2012

PRESENT: NICOLAI, P.J., MOLIA and IANNACCI, JJ

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $498.17.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff commenced this small claims action to recover the sum of $835.68 for defendant's failure to make an insurance payment on his car, for damage allegedly inflicted on his car by defendant, and for defendant's destruction of his car key. At a non-jury trial, the parties testified that they had divorced in January 2009. It was undisputed that, in the division of the parties' assets, plaintiff, who was unable to drive due to a visual impairment, was awarded title to the parties' car, but that defendant continued to drive the car following their divorce. Plaintiff contended that he permitted defendant to drive the car pursuant to an oral agreement that defendant would pay for the insurance on the car. He sought to recover $179.50 for an insurance bill which had accrued following the parties' divorce and which, he testified, he had paid after defendant had failed to do so. Plaintiff also sought to recover for repairs to the car which he said had been necessitated by defendant's destructive driving habits, and for the replacement of a car key which he said defendant had destroyed. Defendant argued that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to consider plaintiff's claims, because they pertained to marital property. The District Court awarded plaintiff the principal sum of $498.17, which, it stated, was intended to compensate plaintiff for the cost of one month's insurance on the car and half the cost of the repairs which were reflected in the itemized, paid bill plaintiff introduced into evidence. The award did not include compensation for the broken car key. Defendant appeals from the judgment.

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, the determination of a 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 [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 125,126 [2000]).

Defendant failed to introduce into evidence any support for her contention that the Supreme Court retained exclusive jurisdiction over the parties' property disputes which arose from defendant's use of plaintiff's vehicle following their divorce. As there was substantial evidence to support the findings of the District Court, we conclude that the judgment rendered substantial justice between the parties (UDCA 1804, 1807).

Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.

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

Decision Date: August 06, 2012

20120806

© 1992-2012 VersusLaw Inc.



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