Case Caption: Michelle Maso v. Yara MoralesCase Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2011-0068Date: 11/21/2012Author: Hodge, Rhys S. Citation: Summary:

In plaintiff's small claims action for damage to an automobile in an accident, in a case where the vehicle was destroyed by fire months after the accident in suit, the ruling of the magistrate - reviewed on appeal in light of its adoption by the Appellate Division - that a damages award is always unavailable under these circumstances is reversed. There is no authority for the proposition that a claimant must still possess the personal property for which she is asserting a claim of damages; plaintiffs may obtain damages even if they no longer possess the subject property as the result of some supervening act that destroys the property. A plaintiff need not establish her damages with exactitude, but is required to prove damages with as much certainty as the nature of the tort and circumstances permit. Here the plaintiff attempted to establish her damages by providing estimates from body shops - based not on any direct observation of the vehicle, but on the damages described in the police report and on her own descriptions of the vehicle. Because the Superior Court erroneously concluded that the plaintiff was barred from recovering any damages due to the subsequent, independent destruction of her vehicle, the Superior Court's July 26, 2011 order is reversed, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion