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Norelli v. Mutual Savings Fund Harmonia

Decided: September 16, 1938.

NICHOLAS A. NORELLI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MUTUAL SAVINGS FUND HARMONIA, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



On appeal from the Supreme Court (Essex Circuit).

For the plaintiff-appellant, Jerome Alper (George H. Rosenstein, of counsel).

For the defendant-respondent, George Schmidt, Jr. (Samuel Koestler and Benjamin Nohemie, of counsel).

Trenchard

The opinion of the court was delivered by

TRENCHARD, J. This is an appeal from a judgment of nonsuit, granted at the conclusion of the plaintiff's case below after certain testimony was stricken out and other testimony was refused admission.

The suit below was by a licensed architect for the reasonable value of services rendered in preparing plans and specifications for the alteration of two buildings at the request of the defendant corporation, the owner thereof. The testimony tended to show that the plaintiff had been consulted by the defendant through its Vice-President Hoffman, and its board of directors, and was requested to prepare and submit plans and specifications for the alteration of the properties located in South Orange, New Jersey; that it was agreed between the parties that upon the approval of these plans by the defEndant and by the building department of South Orange, the defendant would proceed with the construction of the work and place plaintiff in supervision thereof, and would pay him the reasonable value of his services in the preparation of the plans and the supervision of the reconstruction work.

The testimony also tended to show, among others, the following matters of fact: That plaintiff did prepare the plans and that they were approved by the defendant and by the building department of South Orange; that the defendant signified its approval by its Vice-President Hoffman and by the board of directors. (The testimony concerning this approval by the board was erroneously stricken out by the court on defendant's motion and over the plaintiff's objection, and this was assigned for error.) The evidence also tended to show that the defendant desired to find a purchaser for the property in question; that the plaintiff endeavored to assist defendant in this respect by bringing to it a builder who would do the reconstruction work; that subsequently, and for reasons not material to the plaintiff's case, the negotiations with the builder fell through, and the defendant refused to carry out its contract of employment with the plaintiff and to proceed with the reconstruction work according to the agreement; that thereafter plaintiff demanded payment for

the reasonable value of his services and not being paid, this suit was begun.

The defendant's theory of the case, the striking and refusing testimony and the eventual granting of the nonsuit, appears to have been based upon the sole premise that the evidence constituting plaintiff's case was not binding upon the defendant because no authority was shown to bind the defendant other than the statement of its vice-president and the action of the board of directors as expressed at their various meetings; the contention being that such proof was incompetent, not having been made by and through formal minutes of the meetings of the board of directors. We think that theory was erroneous.

In a suit, as here, to recover the reasonable value of services by an architect for preparing plans and specifications, and where no express contract is alleged or sought to be proved, proof of services rendered at the request of the defendant corporation and of authorization by the defendant to its officer to request such services, and of ratification by the defendant of such an arrangement, is permissible by parol testimony, without introduction of the minutes of the corporate meetings.

It is of utmost importance to recognize at the outset that this is not a suit upon an express contract entered into by formal resolution between a corporation and a third party. The suit below was purely and simply for the reasonable value of services rendered at the special instance and request of the defendant. The pleadings set forth that cause of action and the tendered proofs conformed to and never varied from that theory.

The testimony tended to show that the plaintiff was requested by the defendant's vice-president to draw plans and specifications and was promised that he would be paid a reasonable compensation. As we have pointed out, the condition imposed that the building department should approve the plans was fully met. The evidence shows that this arrangement was made by the ...


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