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Trustees of Columbia University v. Jacobsen

Decided: January 23, 1959.

THE TRUSTEES OF COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ROY G. JACOBSEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Goldmann, Freund and Haneman. The opinion of the court was delivered by Goldmann, S.j.a.d.

Goldmann

Defendant appeals from a summary judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, dismissing his counterclaim with prejudice and denying his counter-motion for summary judgment. The judgment also denied his motion for self-disqualification of the trial judge.

I.

Columbia brought suit in the district court against defendant and his parents on two notes made by him and

signed by them as co-makers, representing the balance of tuition he owed the University. The principal due amounted to $1,049.50, but plaintiff sued for only $1,000, waiving any demand for judgment in excess of the jurisdictional limit of the court. Defendant then sought to file an answer and counterclaim demanding, among other things, money damages in the sum of $7,016. The counterclaim was in 50 counts which severally alleged that plaintiff had represented that it would teach defendant wisdom, truth, character, enlightenment, understanding, justice, liberty, honesty, courage, beauty and similar virtues and qualities; that it would develop the whole man, maturity, well-roundedness, objective thinking and the like; and that because it had failed to do so it was guilty of misrepresentation, to defendant's pecuniary damage.

The district court clerk having refused to accept the pleading because of the amount demanded, defendant moved to transfer the action to the Superior Court. Plaintiff consented, but before an order could be entered defendant's mother paid the amount due and plaintiff thereupon discontinued its action. After transfer to the Superior Court defendant filed a supplement to his answer and counterclaim in which he increased the ad damnum clause to require Columbia to return the sum paid by his mother.

Plaintiff then moved in the Superior Court for an order dismissing the counterclaim and for the entry of summary judgment in its favor upon the ground that the counter-claim failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Defendant subsequently moved for disqualification of the Superior Court judge sitting in the matter and also made a counter-motion for summary judgment. He appeared pro se throughout the entire proceedings below, as he does here.

Following oral argument the Law Division judge refused to disqualify himself and concluded that the statements attributed by defendant to plaintiff did not constitute a false representation. The judgment under appeal was then entered.

II.

Following a successful freshman year at Dartmouth defendant entered Columbia University in the fall of 1951. He continued there until the end of his senior year in the spring of 1954, but was not graduated because of poor scholastic standing. Plaintiff admits the many quotations from college catalogues and brochures, inscriptions over University buildings and addresses by University officers cited in the schedules annexed to the counterclaim. The sole question is whether these statements constitute actionable misrepresentations.

Plaintiff's motion was brought under two heads: (1) to dismiss the counterclaim under R.R. 4:12-2 for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and (2) for summary judgment under R.R. 4:58 on the ground that there was no genuine issue as to any material fact. See 2 Schnitzer and Wildstein, New Jersey Rules Service , A IV-251-2. The motion was directed to the entire counterclaim. There was no responsive pleading. Although the remedy of summary judgment is admittedly drastic and cautiously granted, it is so well established as scarcely to require citation that the remedy should not be ...


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