Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
In small claims cases the court is adjured to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law. N.Y. City Civ. Ct. Act § 1804.
Petitioner Jean Bierman owned a small house at Rivington Street, New York City, where, assisted by social security payments, she made her home. One morning in February 1968, water poured into petitioner’s basement. That caused damaged to the boiler, floor, and walls. The source of the flood was a ruptured water main in front of her house. Petitioner then filed a claim for property damage against respondent City of New York, which responded with a letter stating that Consolidated Edison had been working on the main, and hence her grievance, if any, was against Consolidated Edison. Petitioner then commenced an action in the small claims against both respondents City and Consolidated Edison, seeking damages. Neither respondents offered any evidence. Rather, at the close of petitioner’s case, each moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground that there was no proof of negligence.
Should petitioner’s small claims action for damages against respondents be granted?
The court entered a judgment in favor of petitioner and held that although there was no proof that respondents were negligent, the court found that substantial justice required that petitioner recover. The court ruled that a judgment for the petitioner operated to alleviate the expense of the incident because the respondents could spread the cost to repair the damages on their customers. Further, only them could take steps to prevent a reoccurrence of the incident. The court concluded that, fairness required the respondents, whose business activities caused the water to flood petitioner’s basement, to pay for the incident.