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John Barnett v. Antoinette L. Mathis

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


August 31, 2012

JOHN BARNETT,
APPELLANT,
v.
ANTOINETTE L. MATHIS,
RESPONDENT.

Appeal from a judgment of the District Court of Nassau County, Second District (Donald H. Birnbaum, J.), entered July 30, 2009.

Barnett v Mathis

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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.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 31, 2012

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

The judgment, after a non-jury trial, awarded defendant the principal sum of $4,189.35 on her counterclaim.

ORDERED that the judgment is affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff commenced this small claims action to recover the sum of $5,000 for property he had left in an apartment he had shared with defendant. Defendant counterclaimed to recover the sum of $4,992.17, alleging that plaintiff owed her this amount as his unpaid share of utility bills and for a payment she had made on his behalf for an engagement ring which he had taken back. At a non-jury trial, plaintiff withdrew his claim, and the trial went forward on defendant's counterclaim. After defendant presented her evidence, plaintiff requested an adjournment to gather evidence to prove his defense. The District Court denied the application. After hearing testimony from both parties, the court awarded judgment to defendant on the counterclaim in the principal sum of $4,189.35. Plaintiff appeals from the judgment. Upon a review of the record, we find that the judgment provided the parties with substantial justice according to the rules and principles of substantive law (UDCA 1804, 1807).

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]). In the instant case, the record amply supports the District Court's conclusions regarding plaintiff's liability.

An application for an adjournment is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court upon a balanced consideration of all relevant factors. An appellate court will only interfere when the trial court improvidently exercises its discretion (see e.g. Matter of Latrell S. [Christine K.], 80 AD3d 618 [2011]; Elachkar v GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 34 Misc 3d 155[A], 2012 NY Slip Op 50400[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2012]). In the instant case, the District Court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in declining to grant plaintiff an adjournment, as plaintiff had written notice of the counterclaim and should have been prepared to present his proof at trial.

Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.

LaCava, J.P., Nicolai and LaSalle, JJ., concur.

Decision Date: August 31, 2012

20120831

© 1992-2012 VersusLaw Inc.



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