Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Xu v. He

Supreme Court of New York, Third Department

February 23, 2017

XIAOKANG XU, Respondent,
v.
XIOLING SHIRLEY HE, Appellant.

          Calendar Date: January 17, 2017

          Xioling Shirley He, Clifton Park, appellant pro se.

          Xiaokang Xu, Greendale, Wisconsin, respondent pro se.

          Before: Peters, P.J., McCarthy, Egan Jr., Rose and Mulvey, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MULVEY, J.

         Appeals (1) from an order and judgment of the Supreme Court (Ferradino, J.), entered May 21, 2014 and June 4, 2014 in Saratoga County, which, upon an inquest, awarded damages to plaintiff, and (2) from an order of said court, entered June 4, 2014 in Saratoga County, which granted plaintiff an order of protection against defendant.

         The parties were divorced in 2005 and have been involved in multiple actions and proceedings since. In April 2013, plaintiff commenced this action alleging several causes of action. When defendant failed to answer, Supreme Court, on plaintiff's motion, granted plaintiff a default judgment and ordered an inquest on damages. After the inquest, Supreme Court awarded plaintiff $5, 000 on each of plaintiff's causes of action for libel per se, intentional infliction of emotional distress, misuse of legal procedure/abuse of process and violation of plaintiff's right to privacy. Supreme Court also awarded plaintiff $5, 000 in punitive damages and $10, 000 in counsel fees, and granted plaintiff a permanent injunction restraining defendant from certain actions for five years. In a separate order, the court granted plaintiff an order of protection and full stay away order for a period of five years. Defendant appeals.

         By failing to answer the summons and complaint, defendant is deemed to have admitted "all traversable allegations in the complaint, including the basic issue of liability" (Amusement Bus. Underwriters v American Intl. Group, 66 N.Y.2d 878, 880 [1985]) and, at an inquest, defendant is only permitted to contest the amount of damages (see D D & P Realty, Inc. v Robustiano, 68 A.D.3d 1496, 1497 [2009]). Supreme Court's award of damages is subject to this Court's review on appeal to determine "whether the awards deviate materially from what would be considered reasonable compensation" (Morrisseau v State of New York, 265 A.D.2d 647, 648 [1999]; see CPLR 5501 [c]; Garrison v Lapine, 72 A.D.3d 1441, 1442 [2010]). Since awards for any personal injuries, especially like those claimed by plaintiff, "are not subject to precise quantification, examination of comparable cases is necessary to determine whether the award materially deviated from reasonable compensation" (Nolan v Union Coll. Trust of Schenectady, N.Y., 51 A.D.3d 1253, 1256 [2008] [internal quotation marks and citation omitted], lv denied 11 N.Y.3d 705');">11 N.Y.3d 705 [2008]).

         We find ample support for Supreme Court's assessment of damages on the causes of action for libel per se and abuse of process. With regard to the cause of action for libel per se, plaintiff testified that he had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, worked with computer software programs, travels as part of his job and comes into contact with similar professionals. Plaintiff explained that the nature of his employment requires background checks and security clearances. He testified that defendant's letter to his employer, calling him an abuser, accusing him of cruel and inhuman treatment, theft of trade secrets, fraud and perjury, together with numerous online postings, resulted in damage to his professional reputation as well as public humiliation and embarrassment. Harm to emotional well-being and professional reputation constitutes a basis for an award of compensatory damages (see Dobies v Brefka, 45 A.D.3d 999, 1001 [2007]). We find that Supreme Court's award to plaintiff of $5, 000 in compensatory damages "is fairly supported by the evidence and does not deviate from what is reasonable compensation" (id. at 1001 [$225, 000 award for false accusation of sexual abuse of the plaintiff's daughter]; compare Strader v Ashley, 61 A.D.3d 1244, 1247-1248 [2009], lv dismissed 13 N.Y.3d 756');">13 N.Y.3d 756 [2009] [$26, 800 award for false accusations of criminal conduct]; Allen v CH Energy Group, Inc., 58 A.D.3d 1102, 1104 [2009] [award reduced to $50, 000 for false accusations of improper conduct in public]; Rossignol v Silvernail, 185 A.D.2d 497, 498 [1992], lv denied 80 N.Y.2d 760');">80 N.Y.2d 760 [1992] [award reduced to $85, 000 for slanderous statements regarding purported acts of child abuse]; Parkin v Cornell Univ., 182 A.D.2d 850, 852 [1992], appeal dismissed 80 N.Y.2d 914');">80 N.Y.2d 914 [1992] [award reduced to $10, 000 for false accusations of stealing employer's property]).

         Testimony presented with respect to the cause of action for abuse of process demonstrated that defendant initiated multiple actions and proceedings against plaintiff with the intent to relitigate issues that had previously been determined, without justification, and used the process in a perverted manner to obtain a collateral objective (see Board of Educ. of Farmingdale Union Free School Dist. v Farmingdale Classroom Teachers Assn., Local 1889, AFT AFL-CIO, 38 N.Y.2d 397, 403 [1975]; Ettienne v Hochman, 83 A.D.3d 888, 888 [2011]). In so doing, plaintiff and his family were "subjected to a plethora of litigious practices" that are best deemed "frivolous and grounded in malice" (Chew Wah Bing v Sun Wei Assn., 191 A.D.2d 361, 362 [1993], appeal dismissed 82 N.Y.2d 886');">82 N.Y.2d 886 [1993]). Accordingly, Supreme Court's award of $5, 000 on the abuse of process cause of action should not be disturbed (compare id. at 363 [$25, 000 award]).

         We next turn to plaintiff's request for punitive damages which "are not to compensate the injured party but rather to punish the tortfeasor and to deter this wrongdoer and others similarly situated from indulging in the same conduct in the future" (Ross v Louise Wise Servs., Inc., 8 N.Y.3d 478, 489 [2007]). Such an award is "permitted when the defendant's wrongdoing is not simply intentional but 'evince[s] a high degree of moral turpitude and demonstrate[s] such wanton dishonesty as to imply a criminal indifference to civil obligations'" (id. at 489, quoting Walker v Sheldon, 10 N.Y.2d 401, 405 [1961]; accord Strader v Ashley, 61 A.D.3d at 1248). "[S]uch an award [must] bear a reasonable relationship to [the] defendant['s] culpability" (Parkin v Cornell Univ., 182 A.D.2d at 852). Here, defendant has repeatedly harassed plaintiff and his family, attempted to discredit him and damage his reputation, brought numerous suits against plaintiff and his agents, employers and associates and continues to attempt to relitigate issues long since determined. As such, Supreme Court properly granted plaintiff $5, 000 in punitive damages (see Strader v Ashley, 61 A.D.3d at 1248 [awards of $100, 000, $5, 000 and $12, 500 for false accusations of criminal conduct]; Dobies v Brefka, 45 A.D.3d at 1001 [$30, 500 for false accusation of sexual abuse of the plaintiff's daughter]; Heller v Ingber, 134 A.D.2d 733, 735 [1987] [award reduced to $10, 000 for malicious prosecution]).

         Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion when it granted a permanent injunction restraining defendant for five years from, among other things, contacting plaintiff's past, present and future employers and commencing any legal proceedings against plaintiff, his family and employers without first obtaining consent from Supreme Court. In order to be granted a permanent injunction, a plaintiff must establish that he or she would suffer "irreparable injury in the absence of an adequate legal remedy" (Town of Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corp. v Catskill Regional Med. Ctr., 30 A.D.3d 739, 740 [2006]). In considering such an application, the court must balance the equities between the parties to determine whether the irreparable harm that a plaintiff would suffer "substantially outweighs the injury that the injunctive relief would cause to the defendant[]" (Parry v Murphy, 79 A.D.3d 713, 715 [2010]). The requirement imposed by Supreme Court, that defendant first seek approval of the court before commencing any further actions or proceedings involving plaintiff and others, is sufficiently narrow and balanced so as to protect any legitimate claims that defendant may have, while, at the same instance, protecting plaintiff from further vexatious actions or proceedings by defendant.

         Counsel fees, which are "incidents of litigation, cannot be awarded unless authorized by statute, court rule, or agreement between the parties" (Matter of Ernestine R., 61 A.D.3d 874, 876 [2009]; see Matter of A.G. Ship Maintenance Corp. v Lezak, 69 N.Y.2d 1, 5 [1986]; Matter of Kaczor v Kaczor, 101 A.D.3d 1403, 1404 [2012]). "22 NYCRR 130-1.1, a court rule intended to limit frivolous and harassing behavior, authorizes a court, in its discretion, to award to any party or attorney in a civil action reasonable [counsel] fees resulting from conduct found to be 'frivolous'" (Matter of Ernestine R., 61 A.D.3d at 876 [internal citation omitted]). In several prior actions involving the parties, defendant has asserted false material statements, significantly delayed litigation, asserted positions without basis in the law and continually attempted to relitigate issues previously decided, all of which conduct could be considered frivolous. We find ample support in the record for the amount awarded for counsel fees.

         However, we are compelled to vacate other awards of damages. When considering an application for a default judgment, it is incumbent upon the court to examine the proof submitted pursuant to CPLR 3215 (f) and determine whether "'a viable cause of action exists'" (State of New York v Williams, 73 A.D.3d 1401, 1402 [2010], lv denied15 N.Y.3d 709');">15 N.Y.3d 709 [2010], quoting Woodson v Mendon Leasing Corp., 100 N.Y.2d 62, 70-71 [2003]). We find that plaintiff's causes of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.