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Scott Rachman and Jayne Rachman v. Li Coatings

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


August 7, 2012

SCOTT RACHMAN AND JAYNE RACHMAN,
RESPONDENTS,
v.
LI COATINGS, INC.,
APPELLANT.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Nassau County, Second District (Anna R. Anzalone, J.), entered October 5, 2010.

Rachman v Li Coatings, Inc.

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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 7, 2012

PRESENT: LaCAVA, J.P., NICOLAI and LaSALLE, JJ

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded plaintiffs the principal sum of $3,800.

ORDERED that the judgment is modified by reducing the award in favor of plaintiffs to the principal sum of $2,400; as so modified, the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiffs hired defendant to apply a water sealant to the roof of their gazebo at a contract price of $2,400. The contract contained a two-year warranty on workmanship. When water damage to the gazebo subsequently appeared, plaintiffs commenced this small claims action. After a non-jury trial, the District Court awarded plaintiffs the principal sum of $3,800.

Appellate review of a small claims judgment "is limited to a determination of whether substantial justice has been done between the parties according to the rules and principles of substantive law" (UDCA 1804, 1807; see Devellis v Lucci, 266 AD2d 180, 181 [1999]; Heatherwood House at Ronkonkoma, LLC v Kuehn, 21 Misc 3d 138[A], 2008 NY Slip Op 52298[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2008]). As a general rule, a court's determination following a non-jury trial "should not be disturbed unless it is obvious that the court's conclusions could not be reached under any fair interpretation of the evidence, especially when the findings of fact rest in large measure on considerations relating to the credibility of witnesses" (Claridge Gardens v Menotti, 160 AD2d 544, 544-545 [1990]; see also Perez v Garcia, 304 AD2d 544 [2003]). This standard applies with greater force to judgments rendered in the Small Claims Part of the court (Williams v Roper, 269 AD2d 125, 126 [2000]).

The parties' contract, dated July 30, 2007, stated that defendant would apply a sealant with a 25-year warranty and that defendant "warrants workmanship for two (2) years. . . [a]fter the date of completion." Defendant argues that the two-year workmanship warranty had expired by the time plaintiffs first complained of the damage, on August 18, 2009 according to the testimony of defendant's representative. Although there was no testimony as to when defendant had completed the work, thereby triggering the commencement of the two-year warranty period, the record suffices to support a finding that the cause of action accrued within the two-year warranty period. Plaintiffs testified that they had first detected water damage in 2009, "a couple months" before they had informed defendant of the damage, and that defendant had failed to respond to their initial complaint. Thus, the breach of the warranty of workmanship occurred, based on the testimony of the respective witnesses, by mid-June 2009. Indeed, the process that eventually resulted in mold and other damage clearly had to begin to develop some time within the two-year warranty period. Consequently, the District Court's finding, that defendant breached its workmanship warranty, will not be disturbed.

Defendant contends that the damages award, which was based on the consequential damages sustained, was excessive because it exceeded the agreed-upon contract price of $2,400. We agree. The parties' contract explicitly excluded liability for consequential damages resulting from a breach by defendant of its warranty. As a result, we find that substantial justice requires, under the circumstances presented, that the amount awarded plaintiffs be limited to a refund of the $2,400 contract price.

Accordingly, the judgment is modified by reducing the award in favor of plaintiffs to the principal sum of $2,400.

LaCava, J.P., Nicolai and LaSalle, JJ., concur. Decision Date: August 07, 2012

20120807

© 1992-2012 VersusLaw Inc.



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