Cite as: Shea v. Cohen, SC-002182-12, NYLJ 1202580204049, at *1 (Dist., NA, Decided November 26, 2012)

Justice Gary Knobel

Decided: November 26, 2012





This is a classic small claims action to recover the consequential monetary damages sustained by the plaintiff bride on June 8, 2012, her wedding day, when the zipper on plaintiff's gown split apart shortly before the start of the cocktail hour at 5:00 p.m. on the rooftop of the Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan's Meatpacking District. The ensuing "nightmare," as the plaintiff described it at trial, allegedly robbed the plaintiff of experiencing the joy of her very special day.

Although the defendant conceded at trial that she decided on her own to replace the zipper on the wedding dress after the final fitting, she "felt [that] it wasn't [her] fault" that the zipper split, that "it's nature."

What is not in dispute between the parties is that the plaintiff's size 10 ivory wedding dress was purchased from Bridal World in Baldwin, New York, "as is," on May 14, 2012, for the sum of $599.00, and that the defendant, a seamstress working out of a basement studio in her home, charged the plaintiff $600.00 to perform alterations on the dress. Also undisputed are the facts that the last fitting for the dress occurred on Monday, June 4, 2012, that a new zipper was replaced on the dress (not at the request of the plaintiff) between June 4 and June 6, 2012, when the plaintiff picked up the dress from the defendant, and that the plaintiff did not put the dress on in front of the defendant on June 6, 2012.

Plaintiff and her witnesses (her mother and two bridesmaids) each testified at trial




that one hour prior to the ceremony, after the plaintiff put on her wedding dress, bridesmaid Joanne Zambuto "lifted up the zipper" on the back of the dress and "watched" in horror as "the seam split." Zambuto further testified that she and plaintiff were "scared and didn't know what to do." Zambuto frantically called the defendant, who allegedly told her that she could be at the hotel in two hours. Bridesmaid Abbatiello testified that after the zipper split, she went downstairs to the hotel concierge for assistance. As a result, two women from the housekeeping department came to the bridal suite and for one and a half hours, according to Abbatiello and Zambuto, they "sewed [the plaintiff] into the dress so it would not slip off the plaintiff. Neither the concierge nor the wedding party thought of, or attempted, to have a professional tailor come to the hotel, or have the dress repaired on an emergency basis somewhere in lower Manhattan. According to the plaintiff, she paid the housekeepers $200.00 in cash (from wedding gifts) for their intense labor even though the housekeepers did not ask to be compensated. More unfortunate consequences of the housekeepers' sewing solution to the wardrobe malfunction were, according to the plaintiff and her witnesses, that the plaintiff could not go to the lavatory for six hours, and that the wedding dress "had to be ripped apart [in order] to get the dress off" of the plaintiff. This "nightmare," claimed the plaintiff, also caused her to miss the rooftop cocktail hour and forced her to incur an additional $100.00 in overtime costs to the officiating minister since the wedding ceremony was significantly delayed.

The defendant was remorseful during her testimony, claiming that she was "really sorry," and "was devastated" when she received a text message, while she was driving on the highway towards Manhattan, which informed her that her services were no longer needed and that she must not come to the hotel. The defendant was hurt and upset that whoever called her initially on June 8 hurled obscenities at her during that phone call; she claimed that plaintiff's mother called to apologize for that behavior. Defendant maintained that a zipper splitting apart on a wedding dress which she was responsible for tailoring "never happened before," that the original zipper on the dress "was broken," and that she "changed [the] zipper because [she] was being responsible." She claimed plaintiff's wedding dress was "a sample" dress, although she never elaborated on the




alterations that she and her assistants performed. The defendant also did not argue that the plaintiff failed to try on the dress when she picked up the dress on June 6, nor did the defendant claim that the plaintiff gained weight over the four-day period between the last fitting and the wedding day. The defendant declared at trial that " I guarantee my work, [but] I cannot be responsible for the dress anymore." Both the defendant and the plaintiff's mom testified that the plaintiff's mom called the defendant in an effort to settle the plaintiff's grievance for $300.00 prior to the filing of the claim at bar, but that the defendant wanted to first consult with her attorney and ultimately decided not to settle out of court since the zipper splitting was "an accident."

The Court finds, based upon the credible testimony of the parties and plaintiff's three witnesses and after examining the subject dress and reviewing the photographic and documentary evidence, that the interests of substantial justice require an award in excess of the $1,000.00 amount sought in the complaint since the plaintiff proved damages beyond that stated sum (see UDCA §§1804, 1807; Kobiliak v. Parking Systems, Ltd., 2003 NY Slip Op 50838U [App Term, April 9, 2003]; Chen v. Unique Food & Vending Services, Inc., 2002 NY Slip Op 40408U [App Term, June 26, 2002]). The Court further finds that the defendant vouched for the subject zipper's functionality and reliability when she replaced the original zipper three days before the wedding, and when the replacement zipper split apart, the defendant breached her oral agreement with the plaintiff to properly alter plaintiff's wedding dress and thus became liable for the damages which flowed from that breach. Accordingly, in view of defendant's concession at trial that the cost of the alterations to the wedding dress was $600.00, and in light of the plaintiff proving by a preponderance of the credible testimony and evidence that she purchased the dress for $599.00, that she was required to pay the minister an additional $100.00 for the delay in the wedding ceremony, and that she paid the housekeepers $200.00 to sew the dress together so it would not slip off the plaintiff, the Court conforms the pleadings to the proof (see CPLR 3025[c]; Loomis v. Civetta Corrino Constr. Corp., 54 NY2d 18) and awards the plaintiff $1,499.00, together with interest from June 8, 2012. The Court notes that the defendant cannot claim prejudice or surprise by the




possibility of an award in excess of $1,000.00 since the defendant was aware of the cost of the wedding dress, and she never refuted at trial the contention by the plaintiff's witnesses that the dress was ripped apart and could not be worn again.

The foregoing constitutes the decision and order of this Court.

See judgment.