Collester, Lora and Handler. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, J.A.D.
[131 NJSuper Page 162] This controversy arises out of contracts entered into by plaintiffs-respondents, Hudik-Ross, Inc. and its related corporation, H-R Plumbing, Inc. (both hereinafter referred to as Hudik-Ross) and defendants-appellants H.R. Shapiro, Inc. and its related corporation, 1530 Palisade
Avenue Corp. (both hereinafter referred to as H.R. Shapiro) for construction work to be performed by plaintiffs. On August 6, 1970 H. R. Shapiro entered into a contract with Hudik-Ross under which Hudik-Ross was to provide all the labor and materials for the plumbing work at the Colony Apartments in Fort Lee, New Jersey for $1,460,000.
On November 20, 1970 defendants and plaintiffs entered into a similar contract for the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) at the Colony for $1,300,000. On September 8, 1971 the parties contracted for plaintiffs to provide all the plumbing and HVAC work at the site of Regency Towers in Allentown, Pennsylvania for $707,500.
Defendants allege serious disputes arose between the parties over the work on both projects because plaintiffs failed to do work properly and provided inadequate materials for which defendants delivered numerous "back-charges" to Hudik-Ross, totaling "at last count" $1,091,573. Plaintiffs assert all work was completed on two contracts by October 9, 1972 and on the third by May 15, 1973; they deny any disputes arose during performance of the work and state no arbitration was demanded while work was in progress.
H. R. Shapiro refused to make the final contract payments and on August 20, 1973 Hudik-Ross instituted three suits against defendants under the three contracts. They claimed $110,500 for the Allentown job, and on the Colony job some $183,393.40 for the HVAC work and $242,915 for the plumbing work, in all a total of $536,808.40. Defendants answered alleging they refused to pay because of the "back-charges" in dispute, and by separate affirmative defense set forth their contractual right to go to arbitration.
In October 1973 defendants filed in each of the three separate suits a notice of motion for an order to consolidate the three cases and for an order staying the cases so that the controversies could be submitted to arbitration in accordance with a provision contained in all three contracts. The motion was not granted by the trial judge at that time because a
separate written demand for arbitration had not yet been made upon plaintiff as called for in the arbitration clause. In December 1973 defendants served separate written demands for arbitration on plaintiffs and requested reargument on the motion. On February 6, 1974, following reargument, an order issued staying all three actions pending arbitration, but consolidating only the two actions involving construction at Fort Lee, New Jersey.
Subsequently, on February 20, 1974 a complaint was filed in the name of H.R. Shapiro, Inc. against Hudik-Ross by defendants' insurance carrier under its subrogation rights to recover for water damage that occurred on two occasions because of alleged defective work by Hudik-Ross, who then answered and counterclaimed asserting the three claims made in the original three suits.
Three other suits for damages were filed by tenants in the Fort Lee building against Americana Associates, the management corporation for the apartments, who, in turn, filed third-party complaints against Hudik-Ross alleging they had caused the damage by faulty workmanship.
Hudik-Ross then moved to consolidate all seven cases and to dissolve the order entered in the three original suits on February 6, 1974 to stay and to arbitrate.
On May 31, 1974 an order was entered dissolving the order of February 6, 1974 and consolidating all seven cases. On June 27, 1974 leave to appeal ...