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Sudol v. Rudy Papa Motors

June 6, 1980

EDWARD SUDOL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RUDY PAPA MOTORS, DEFENDANT



Saunders, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).

Saunders

This opinion supplements the prior letter decision rendered in this case awarding judgment to plaintiff in the amount of $2026.77. Defendant argues that plaintiff seeks the equitable remedy of rescission, a remedy which the county district court is without power to grant.

The issue is whether a suit for the return of the purchase price of an automobile is an equitable claim for rescission, thus depriving the county district court of jurisdiction. R. 4:6-7 provides that whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the matter. The question of the county district court's jurisdiction having arisen at trial, it is now properly before the court.

This court found, in its letter opinion, that plaintiff purchased a used 1973 Mercury Marquis automobile from defendant; that the automobile did not perform satisfactorily; that plaintiff gave defendant an opportunity to correct the defects; that defendant was unable or unwilling to correct the defects; that

in its defective condition the value of the car was substantially impaired and that plaintiff offered the return of the car and demanded the return of his purchase price.

N.J.S.A. 2A:6-34 provides that "every action of a civil nature at law other than a proceeding in lieu of a prerogative writ" shall be cognizable in the county district court, subject to the $3,000 jurisdictional limit. (Emphasis supplied). R. 4:3-1(a)(1) states that in Superior Court actions, if plaintiff's primary right or principal relief sought is equitable, then the action is to be brought in the Chancery Division, even though legal relief is demanded in addition or alternative to equitable relief. Defendant contends that plaintiff is seeking equitable rescission which can only be granted by the Chancery Division of the Superior Court and that the county district court's jurisdiction is statutorily limited to actions at law.

The law is clear that an action in which the primary right alleged or the principal relief sought is equitable is not within the jurisdiction of the county district court. Vineland Shopping Center, Inc. v. DeMarco , 35 N.J. 459 (1961). This is to be distinguished from a law action in which an equitable defense is raised to defeat the claim or an equitable reply is advanced to defeat the defense. Id. at 466.

In Josefowicz v. Porter , 32 N.J. Super. 585 (App.Div.1954), the parties had entered into a contract for the sale of 4 1/2 acres of land and building. Plaintiff claimed that the defendant had misrepresented the uses to which the property could be put and demanded the return of his down-payment. The appellate court, emphasizing the limited jurisdiction of the county district court, said, that the county district court had no jurisdiction over the action for rescission.

The issues presented in the instant case arise out of a purchase of a used automobile, which purchase is a sale of goods within the Uniform Commercial Code (hereinafter Code). N.J.S.A. 12A:2-102; 12A:2-106.

The Code explicitly provides the purchaser of goods with two statutory remedies: (1) a right to reject the goods upon an

improper delivery. N.J.S.A. 12A:2-601 (sometimes referred to as "the perfect tender rule"), and (2) a right to revoke his acceptance in ...


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