Briefly Speaking with N. Ter Vivos
September 8, 2011 7:55 AM - N. Ter Vivos
Welcome back to the second part of this legal series! The last time we spoke, Lucy sued Anna in Small Claims Court, alleging that Anna broke Lucy’s stereo. Lucy lost that lawsuit. (http://lifeinbkln.com/?q=node/67) In this installment, we’ll find out specifically why Lucy lost her lawsuit and discuss the standard of proof in civil cases in New York courts.

Recall that the judge in Lucy’s lawsuit determined that Lucy did not have enough evidence to prove that Anna broke her stereo. What proof did Lucy offer?

First, Lucy testified that she and Anna are roommates in a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. Lucy keeps her stereo in her bedroom atop her dresser. Naturally she and Anna have keys to the apartment, but neither girl has a lock on her bedroom door. Lucy has allowed Anna to use her stereo in the past. Lucy also testified that on the day in question, she left the apartment to go to dinner with her friend, Anita Haircutt. She was gone from approximately 7:30pm to 10:00pm. When she returned at 10pm, Anna was not at home. Lucy went to her room and found that the iPod dock was ripped off of her stereo unit. Because only she and Anna live there, she believes that Anna must have broken her stereo. To prove her damages, Lucy shows the judge the receipt for the stereo and the bank statement that shows her debit card was used to pay for it. Seems logical that Anna broke the stereo, right?

But wait! When it’s Anna’s turn to testify, Anna states that she was home when Lucy left to have dinner with Anita Haircutt. Anna also had dinner plans that night. Anna planned to leave the apartment at 8pm to meet her boyfriend, Colt Fortifive. Around 7:50pm, one of Lucy’s friends, Dee Tox, showed up at the apartment to see Lucy. Dee Tox had her own key to the apartment because Lucy previously made her a copy. Anna told Dee Tox that Lucy was out to dinner. Dee Tox insisted that she would stay at the apartment and wait for Lucy to return. Apparently Dee Tox got tired of waiting because she wasn’t there when Lucy got home. Anna spent the night with Colt Fortifive at his apartment. When she returned the next morning, Lucy was screaming at her, alleging that Anna broke the stereo. Anna also says that Dee Tox is known for drinking way too much and doing things she doesn’t remember later.

Lucy then admits that yes, she did give her friend Dee Tox a key to the apartment. She also admits that Dee Tox has a drinking problem. But, Lucy insists that Dee Tox would not break her stereo and not admit to it.

The judge decided that Lucy lacked sufficient proof to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Anna broke the stereo. What does that mean? Simply put, preponderance of the evidence means ‘more likely than not.’ To win her case, Lucy needed to show that it was more likely than not that Anna broke the stereo. With her direct testimony, it seemed more likely than not that Anna broke the stereo. But, when Anna testified that Dee Tox had an apartment key, was in the apartment alone the night the stereo was broken, and that Dee Tox is an alcoholic who suffers blackouts, it was no longer more likely than not that Anna broke the stereo. Lucy’s case was further damaged by Lucy’s admission that Dee Tox had a key and drinks too much. Under these circumstances, the judge simply could not find by a preponderance of the evidence that Anna broke the stereo. Poor Lucy. Seems like she needs more reliable friends and fewer copies of her keys!

In the next installment, we’ll deal with Lucy’s appeal and the standard of appeal for small claims cases. Until next time, stay legal!


*note that in criminal case, the standard of proof is much higher – evidence to convict must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

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9 comments
September 8, 2011 8:21 AM - DeadCatBounce
That was too many words and not enough sex.
With all those room mates and stereos and alcohol and keys surely somebody could have had some fun?
#1
September 8, 2011 8:32 AM - N. Ter Vivos
Sorry to disappoint you, DeadCatBounce, but this article/series is for legal informational purposes only! The only fun in this series will take place in the courtroom :-D
Edited at September 8, 2011 8:32 AM
#2
September 8, 2011 9:00 AM - DeadCatBounce
Then I guess Lucy's appeal is going to be very limited.
#3
September 8, 2011 10:11 AM - Arkady
You're setting this up too much - Lucy's an idiot. This is the first time I've ever agreed w/ a judge so obviously you're making it all far too biased so legal system comes across as reasonable. Al Gore would've won if it were.
#4
September 8, 2011 11:23 AM - N. Ter Vivos
Arkady, I kept the testimony scenario simple and straight forward only for the purpose of easily defining preponderance of the evidence. Certainly many cases brought before the Small Claims Court are far more intricate than this and justice does not always come easy!

Gort, thank you for your comments! I'm not 100% sure what recourse Anna would have regarding the key situation. But that is a great question. I will do some research into this aspect of roommate life and discuss it more fully in another article.
#5
September 8, 2011 11:44 AM - GortFromPlanetX
Thanks NTV!

I'm very interested in what you find. My friend had a similar problem, though it was not with a roomate, but a fellow renter in their
building they kept handing out keys to the front door and their apt for too many people to stay there. One wonders how many
copies of the keys could have been made.
#6
September 8, 2011 1:33 PM - GortFromPlanetX
NTV thank you for your next installment in these girls unfortunate situation!!!

I enjoyed her friends names, I could possibly see some troubles arising from her boyfriend colt 45 as well LOL!

In a situation like this does Anna have any recourse to counter sue given the case that Lucy is handing out keys to
strangers without her permission jeopardizing her living situation???
#7
September 10, 2011 9:32 AM - Arkady
Gort - Instead of relying on the legal system, your pals should replace the lock w/ one of those devices that utilizes keys costing upwards of $100. & then fewer people would get dupes made.
#8
September 10, 2011 11:09 AM - GortFromPlanetX
GM Arkady - It would indeed be ludicrous to rely on the legal system for such a purpose as my friends LOL
I believe they ended up talking to the offender in question and changing the locks but yours is an excellent fix if their landlord were willing and not cheap.

I am still interested though in our scenario ^ of anna vs lucy already in court how the key situation could be utilized.
Edited at September 10, 2011 11:09 AM
#9