plaintiffs are represented by: Robert A. Smith, Esq.
defendants are represented by: Maria J. Aramanda, Esq.
E. KLEIN J.
small claims matter arises out of a dispute involving a
multi-million dollar beachfront property located at 110 Ocean
Boulevard in Point Lookout, New York. The plaintiffs, Jamie
Shaw and Christina Shaw, commenced the instant small claims
action against the defendants, Point Lookout Toys, LLC, 110
Ocean, BMJC, LLC, and Louis G. Cornacchia, seeking to recover
$5, 000, alleging that they were entitled to the return of a
security deposit they provided to the defendants in
connection with a residential lease for the subject premises.
The defendants filed an answer with counterclaims, wherein
they alleged that the plaintiffs caused certain damage to the
subject premises in the amount of $11, 156.55, and in which
they also sought attorney's fees pursuant to the subject
recognition of the small claims court's monetary
jurisdiction of $5, 000 (see Uniform City Court Act
["UCCA"] §1801), counsel for the defendants
filed an amended answer with a counterclaim detailing an
alleged breach of the lease agreement and damages allegedly
caused by the plaintiffs. Such counterclaim capped the relief
sought at $5, 000, and eliminated the claim for
attorney's fees. In the amended answer, the defendants
referenced a complaint they had filed in the Supreme Court,
Nassau County, seeking monetary damages, a declaratory
judgment, and attorney's fees. A review of that complaint
indicates that it seeks damages in an unspecified amount
expected to exceed $15, 000.
conference before this Court held on November 1, 2017, the
parties addressed the potential impact that the
defendants' Supreme Court action might have upon the
instant action.  Defense counsel stressed that due to
this Court's jurisdictional constraints, the
defendants' claims could only be partially litigated in
this Court. Defense counsel contended that the Supreme Court
action would provide the defendants with an opportunity to
fully litigate its claims. Counsel for the plaintiffs argued
that, irrespective of the Supreme Court action, the instant
action should be litigated in this Court.
Court requested the parties to submit legal memoranda
addressing the issue of how the instant matter should
proceed. In the defendants' papers, the defendants argue
that the instant matter should be dismissed, or, in the
alternative, stayed pending the outcome of the Supreme Court
action. The plaintiffs challenge the legitimacy of both the
equitable relief and the amount of damages sought by the
defendants in the Supreme Court action, suggesting that the
defendants' motivation for both is to "get away from
the Long Beach Court." The plaintiffs, citing UCCA
§1805, also contend that a transfer to the civil part of
the Long Beach City Court is the appropriate procedural
remedy in circumstances where a small claims counterclaim
exceeds $5, 000.
Court will first address the plaintiffs' arguments. As to
the plaintiffs' claims regarding the legitimacy of the
relief sought in the Supreme Court action, this Court is
without authority or jurisdiction to act with regard to the
Supreme Court action. Nevertheless, the plaintiffs remain
free to pursue whatever defense strategy and/or motion
practice in the Supreme Court as they see fit.
to the plaintiffs' reference to UCCA §1805, the
Court must initially acknowledge subdivision (c) of that
section, which provides:
"No counterclaim shall be permitted in a small claims
action, unless the court would have had monetary jurisdiction
over the counterclaim if it had been filed as a small claim.
Any other claim sought to be maintained against the claimant
may be filed in any court of competent
jurisdiction."Thus, this subdivision simply precludes
counterclaims in the small claims part which exceed the
jurisdictional limit of $5, 000. It also, however, permits a
defendant in a small claims action to pursue a claim against
the small claims plaintiff in any court of competent
jurisdiction. The jurisdictional limit of this Court's
civil part is $15, 000 (see UCCA §202), which
precluded the filing of the Supreme Court action in that
Court must also acknowledge UCCA §1805(b), which permits
the transfer of "any small claim or claims to any other
part of the court upon such terms as the rules may provide,
and proceed to hear the same according to the usual practice
and procedure applicable to other parts of the court."
This provision, however, is inapplicable to the instant
circumstances. As it stands, the plaintiffs have filed a
small claims action in this Court, and the defendants have
filed an action in the Supreme Court seeking equitable relief
and a money judgment in excess of $15, 000. As stated above,
this Court has no authority over the Supreme Court action,
and there is no reason for this Court to consider a transfer
of the small claims action to the civil part of this Court at
this time. Therefore, although it does not appear that the
plaintiffs are seeking a transfer of the instant matter to
the civil part, the Court does note that the plaintiffs'
interpretation of UCCA §1805 is incorrect.
to the defendants' position, defendants seek either
dismissal of the instant action or, alternatively, a stay of
the instant action to make a motion in the Supreme Court,
ostensibly pursuant to CPLR 325(b), for removal of the
instant action to the Supreme Court. The defendants'
rationale for such relief is based upon their concerns
regarding potential inconsistent rulings and judicial
economy, should the instant small claims action proceed along
with the Supreme Court action.
the Court appreciates the defendants' concerns, they must
be weighed against the "salutary purposes of small
claims courts which is to provide a simple, informal and
inexpensive procedure for the prompt determination of claims
within its jurisdiction" (Kilinski v Melendez,
182 Misc.2d 55, 57 [Sup Ct, Nassau Co. 1999], citing
UDCA §1802 [the UCCA §1802 counterpart applicable
to District Court]). Indeed, these underpinnings of small
claims court have been deemed a substantial right to which
parties are entitled.
example, in Moise v Brown, 26 Misc.3d 1224 (A) (Sup
Ct, Kings Co. 2010), the plaintiff, Charles V. Moise,
commenced an action in the Supreme Court, Kings County,
alleging that a motor vehicle owned by defendant Clarence
Brown and operated by Keon K. Brown, came into contact with a
motor vehicle owned by the plaintiff, causing injury. The
plaintiff Moise moved, pursuant to CPLR 602, to transfer to
the Supreme Court an action commenced by Keon K. Brown
against the plaintiff Moise in the small claims court, and,
after transfer, consolidating the small claims action with
the Supreme Court action for a joint trial. The Supreme Court
denied the motion, finding that transfer and consolidation
would prejudice a substantial right of the ...