This bill has been amended

Bill S6655-2011

Relates to the consideration of equitable claims and defenses in small claims actions

Relates to the consideration of equitable claims and defenses in small claims actions.

Details

Actions

  • Jun 11, 2012: returned to senate
  • Jun 11, 2012: RECALLED FROM ASSEMBLY
  • May 16, 2012: referred to judiciary
  • May 16, 2012: DELIVERED TO ASSEMBLY
  • May 16, 2012: PASSED SENATE
  • May 7, 2012: ADVANCED TO THIRD READING
  • May 2, 2012: 2ND REPORT CAL.
  • May 1, 2012: 1ST REPORT CAL.627
  • Mar 8, 2012: REFERRED TO JUDICIARY

Votes

VOTE: COMMITTEE VOTE: - Judiciary - May 1, 2012
Ayes (22): Bonacic, DeFrancisco, Flanagan, Fuschillo, Lanza, LaValle, Little, Nozzolio, O'Mara, Ranzenhofer, Saland, Zeldin, Hassell-Thompson, Breslin, Dilan, Espaillat, Gianaris, Krueger, Perkins, Serrano, Squadron, Stavisky
Ayes W/R (1): Adams

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S6655

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the New York city civil court act, the uniform district court act, the uniform city court act, and the uniform justice court act, in relation to the consideration of equitable claims and defenses in small claims actions

This is one in a series of measures being introduced at the request of the Chief Administrative Judge upon the recommendation of her Local Courts Advisory Committee.

This measure amends the New York City Civil Court Act, the Uniform District Court Act, the Uniform City Court Act, and the Uniform Justice Court Act to authorize the court to consider equitable claims and defenses in small claims actions.

A small claim is a cause of action for money not in excess of $5,000, in the New York City Civil Court, the District Courts and the City Court, or $ 3,000 in the Town and Village Justice Courts).

In deciding a small claim, the court is required to do "substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law." See NYCCCA § 1804; UDCA § 1804; UCCA § 1804; UJCA § 1804 [requiring the court to enforce the duties and obligations created by the law without requiring the claimant to comply with the technical rules for establishing his or her right to their enforcement]. Under this mandate, the court must play a more proactive role in the litigation so as to ensure that small claims are resolved in accord with the law. Accordingly, a small claims court has wide discretion in issuing a judgment that does substantial justice between the parties. See Buonomo v. Stalker, 40 A.D.2d 733, 733 (4th Dept. 1972); Roundtree v. Singh, 143 AD.2d 995, 996 (2d Dept. 1988); Miller v. Sanchez, 6 Misc.3d 479, 482 (N.Y.C. Civ. Ct. 2004). The mandate to do substantial justice, however, does not confer upon the small claims court the authority to grant equitable relief. See Cucinotta v. Hanulak, 231 A.D.2d 904, 905 (2d Dept. 1996); TR Construction v. Fischer, 2010 WL 979702, *2 (Watertown City Ct. 2010); Scott v. Dale Carpet Cleaning Inc., 120 Misc.2d 118, 119 (N.Y.C. Civ. Ct. 1983).

The problem is that while equitable relief in the form of specific performance, injunction, or declaratory judgment would be inappropriate in a small claims context given the nature of such claims, the blanket prohibition against doing equity in a small claims action precludes the use of equitable principles of justice, such as the doctrines of unjust enrichment, quantum meruit, laches, and equitable estoppel. Authorizing a small claims court to consider those principles would aid a small claims court in the performance of

its mandate to do substantial justice between the small claims litigants with respect to a claim for money.

This measure would have no fiscal impact upon the State. It would take effect on the first day of January next succeeding the date on which it shall have become a law.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: None. New proposal.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 6655 IN SENATE March 8, 2012 ___________
Introduced by Sen. BONACIC -- (at request of the Office of Court Admin- istration) -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Judiciary AN ACT to amend the New York city civil court act, the uniform district court act, the uniform city court act, and the uniform justice court act, in relation to the consideration of equitable claims and defenses in small claims actions THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Section 1804 of the New York city civil court act, as amended by chapter 650 of the laws of 1991, is amended to read as follows: S 1804. Informal and simplified procedure on small claims. The court shall conduct hearings upon small claims in such manner as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law and shall not be bound by statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except statutory provisions relating to privileged communications and personal trans- actions or communications with a decedent or mentally ill person. THE COURT MAY CONSIDER EQUITABLE CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, UNJUST ENRICHMENT AND QUANTUM MERUIT, AND EQUITABLE DEFENSES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, LACHES AND EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL. An item- ized bill or invoice, receipted or marked paid, or two itemized esti- mates for services or repairs, are admissible in evidence and are prima facie evidence of the reasonable value and necessity of such services and repairs. Disclosure shall be unavailable in small claims procedure except upon order of the court on showing of proper circumstances. In every small claims action, where the claim arises out of the conduct of the defendant's business at the hearing on the matter, the judge or arbitrator shall determine the appropriate state or local licensing or certifying authority and any business or professional association of which the defendant is a member. The provisions of this act and the rules of this court, together with the statutes and rules governing supreme court practice, shall apply to claims brought under this article
so far as the same can be made applicable and are not in conflict with the provisions of this article; in case of conflict, the provisions of this article shall control. S 2. Section 1804 of the uniform district court act, as amended by chapter 650 of the laws of 1991, is amended to read as follows: S 1804. Informal and simplified procedure on small claims. The court shall conduct hearings upon small claims in such manner as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law and shall not be bound by statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except statutory provisions relating to privileged communications and personal trans- actions or communications with a decedent or mentally ill person. THE COURT MAY CONSIDER EQUITABLE CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, UNJUST ENRICHMENT AND QUANTUM MERUIT, AND EQUITABLE DEFENSES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, LACHES AND EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL. An item- ized bill or invoice, receipted or marked paid, or two itemized esti- mates for services or repairs, are admissible in evidence and are prima facie evidence of the reasonable value and necessity of such services and repairs. Disclosure shall be unavailable in small claims procedure except upon order of the court on showing of proper circumstances. In every small claims action, where the claim arises out of the conduct of the defendant's business at the hearing on the matter, the judge or arbitrator shall determine the appropriate state or local licensing or certifying authority and any business or professional association of which the defendant is a member. The provisions of this act and the rules of this court, together with the statutes and rules governing supreme court practice, shall apply to claims brought under this article so far as the same can be made applicable and are not in conflict with the provisions of this article; in case of conflict, the provisions of this article shall control. S 3. Section 1804 of the uniform city court act, as amended by chapter 650 of the laws of 1991, is amended to read as follows: S 1804. Informal and simplified procedure on small claims. The court shall conduct hearings upon small claims in such manner as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law and shall not be bound by statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except statutory provisions relating to privileged communications and personal trans- actions or communications with a decedent or mentally ill person. THE COURT MAY CONSIDER EQUITABLE CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, UNJUST ENRICHMENT AND QUANTUM MERUIT, AND EQUITABLE DEFENSES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, LACHES AND EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL. An item- ized bill or invoice, receipted or marked paid, or two itemized esti- mates for services or repairs, are admissible in evidence and are prima facie evidence of the reasonable value and necessity of such services and repairs. Disclosure shall be unavailable in small claims procedure except upon order of the court on showing of proper circumstances. In every small claims action, where the claim arises out of the conduct of the defendant's business at the hearing on the matter, the judge or arbitrator shall determine the appropriate state or local licensing or certifying authority and any business or professional association of which the defendant is a member. The provisions of this act and the rules of this court, together with the statutes and rules governing supreme court practice, shall apply to claims brought under this article so far as the same can be made applicable and are not in conflict with
the provisions of this article; in case of conflict, the provisions of this article shall control. S 4. Section 1804 of the uniform justice court act, as amended by chapter 650 of the laws of 1991, is amended to read as follows: S 1804. Informal and simplified procedure on small claims. The court shall conduct hearings upon small claims in such manner as to do substantial justice between the parties according to the rules of substantive law and shall not be bound by statutory provisions or rules of practice, procedure, pleading or evidence, except statutory provisions relating to privileged communications and personal trans- actions or communications with a decedent or mentally ill person. THE COURT MAY CONSIDER EQUITABLE CLAIMS AND COUNTERCLAIMS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO, UNJUST ENRICHMENT AND QUANTUM MERUIT, AND EQUITABLE DEFENSES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, LACHES AND EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL. An item- ized bill or invoice, receipted or marked paid, or two itemized esti- mates for services or repairs, are admissible in evidence and are prima facie evidence of the reasonable value and necessity of such services and repairs. Disclosure shall be unavailable in small claims procedure except upon order of the court on showing of proper circumstances. In every small claims action, where the claim arises out of the conduct of the defendant's business at the hearing on the matter, the judge or arbitrator shall determine the appropriate state or local licensing or certifying authority and any business or professional association of which the defendant is a member. The provisions of this act and the rules of this court, together with the statutes and rules governing supreme court practice, shall apply to claims brought under this article so far as the same can be made applicable and are not in conflict with the provisions of this article; in case of conflict, the provisions of this article shall control. S 5. This act shall take effect on the first of January next succeed- ing the date on which it shall have become a law.

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