In this Small Claims arbitration matter, the plaintiff Juan Ortega is suing “Marion”, his son Diego’s public school teacher, and “Aaron”, his son’s public school principal, for $300 in damages for the loss of Diego’s coat.
Mr. Ortega, who I will here call “Juan”, claims that Marion and Aaron are both responsible for the loss of the coat.
Juan is a recent arrival to New York. He spoke mostly in Spanish and also in halting English. However, his outrage at the loss of Diego’s coat was palpable in his testimony and in his behavior that was clearly heard and understood by me.
Juan is a part time construction worker now living in New York City.
He is presently separated and living apart from his wife. He lives near her however, because she has sole custody of his cherished son Diego.
Juan’s devotion to Diego was highly unusual under the circumstances.
Juan said that he saw Diego, who was 10 years old, nearly every day; taking him to his nearby public school every morning, seeing him home almost daily after work, and then staying with Diego for dinner, homework and television at his mother’s house.
He expressed his feelings for Diego with great emotion. Combining his words and sentences in both Spanish and English with his vivid facial expressions, Juan described how the child delighted and amazed him.
He was almost operatic in his declaration of love for the child.
On one bitter winter day, Juan noticed that Diego did not have a warm coat, and he decided to take him shopping. Juan saw a coat for Diego that he liked. It was leather and was styled like a bomber jacket. It had a full fleece lining and other handsome details.
Juan told me that he was very glad to have found this very special coat for Diego.
On an afternoon some days later, Diego tearfully reported to Juan after his class had ended that he was unable to find his coat in the classroom clothes closet. He was without a coat on that frigid day.
Juan was upset. He raced up to Diego’s classroom, and found that the clothes closet in the classroom was open and unlocked.
He confronted Marion in her classroom, and later found Aaron in his principal’s office. They both admitted to Juan that the coat closet is never locked by either of them, even though it had a lock, and they both denied having any responsibility for the lost coat.
To see my decision, click on the link below. Decision.