Defendant Metropolitan Trailer Park, Inc. is the owner and operator of a trailer park in Moonachie, New Jersey. Defendant June A. Dyer, I, is president of the corporation.
Plaintiffs in this action were mobile home owners who resided in the park until their evictions in late 1970. At issue here is plaintiffs' claim that their evictions were wrongful and warrant the award of compensatory and punitive damages under the Tenant's Reprisal Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.10 et seq. That Act provides as follows:
No landlord of premises or units to which this act is applicable shall serve a notice to quit upon any tenant or institute any action against a tenant to recover possession of premises, whether by summary dispossess proceedings, civil action for the possession of land, or otherwise:
a. As a reprisal for the tenant's efforts to secure or enforce any rights under the lease or contract, or under the laws of the State of New Jersey or its governmental subdivisions, or of the United States; or
c. As a reprisal for the tenant's being an organizer of, a member of, or involved in any activities of, any lawful organization; or
A landlord shall be subject to a civil action by the tenant for damages and other appropriate relief, including injunctive and other equitable remedies, as may be determined by a court of competent jusisdiction in every case in which the landlord has violated the provisions of this section. [ L. 1970, c. 210, § 1, eff. Sept. 30, 1970]
Based on the evidence at the final hearing, I make the findings of fact and law which follow.
Plaintiffs were active, to varying degrees, in the local election campaign in Moonachie in the fall of 1970. During this period the incumbent administration was considering amendment of the municipality's zoning ordinance -- in particular, that zoning district in which Metropolitan Trailer Park is located. Without discussing the specific proposals, suffice it to say plaintiffs and defendants had different views as to how the area should be zoned.
This divergence of opinion led plaintiffs to support one mayoral candidate while defendant corporation and its principals supported his opponent. It was clear from the evidence, however, that at least insofar as relevant here, the support of the respective personal candidacies by plaintiffs and defendants was subordinate in importance and incidental to the zoning issue.
I find plaintiffs' evictions were a direct result of their active opposition to defendants on the zoning issue in the fall of 1970. More specifically, I find that the residents evicted were those who, in defendants' view, had clearly aligned themselves against defendants on the zoning issue and that this opposition was the proximate cause of the evictions.
I find, further, that the relationship of each plaintiff to the corporate defendant owner of ...