February 20, 2009
ZINAIDA BOLSHAKOV, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
BERTRAM BOROK, SUNNY VBERDI AND BARRY R. MANDELBAUM, D/B/A BROAD STREET HOTEL, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County, Docket No. DC-1487-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 4, 2009
Before Judges Cuff and Fisher.
In this appeal, we review an order that found no cause for action on plaintiff's Special Civil Part complaint. We affirm.
Plaintiff claimed that she suffered from bug bites while residing from March 15, 2001 to December 6, 2001 in a Newark hotel owned or operated by defendants. At trial, plaintiff testified as to being treated by a doctor for bug bites from May through July 2001. Defendants called no witnesses.
The trial judge, sitting without a jury, concluded that although plaintiff may have suffered from bug bites, she failed to sustain her burden of demonstrating that the bugs that bit her resided in defendant's hotel. Indeed, the judge observed that medical records provided by plaintiff indicated that she had been treated by a doctor for bug bites as a result of traveling in the woods and camping. Although plaintiff denied that she had been in the woods or had gone camping at the relevant time periods, the judge as finder of fact was free to give that testimony as much or little weight as he deemed appropriate.
The appellate function in reviewing a judge's non-jury determination is limited. As our Supreme Court has held, appellate courts do not disturb the factual findings of a trial judge unless convinced "they are manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice." Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). Even though only plaintiff testified, the record more than amply supports the judge's determination that she failed to prove -- particularly in light of the conflict between her own testimony and the medical records -- that the bug bites were inflicted in defendants' hotel. We have no cause to disturb the judge's findings.
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