On appeal from the Superior Court, Law Division, Essex County.
Pressler and Cohen. The opinion of the court was delivered by Cohen, J.A.D.
Plaintiffs' action for damages was dismissed on defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs appealed, and we now reverse.
Plaintiff Robsac Industries, Inc. owns plaintiff Artists and Drafting Supplies, Inc. They are both in the stationery and office supplies business, Robsac in California and Artists and Drafting in New Jersey. Defendant Chartpak is a manufacturer of stationery and office supplies for which Artists and Drafting was a dealer/distributor. Defendant John Zaepfel is Chartpak's president.
In January 1982, the United States government, through the General Services Administration, solicited offers to sell GSA graphic arts supplies. Robsac and Chartpak both submitted bids. The previous year's contract had been awarded to Chartpak. In earlier years, Robsac had been the successful bidder, supplying GSA with Chartpak products.
For the 1982 contract, Robsac was low bidder, followed by Chartpak. Before GSA would finally award the contract, Robsac was required to submit evidence of an uninterrupted source of supply, which could be a letter of commitment from the manufacturer. It is undisputed that on April 7, 1982 John Dunphy, Chartpak's marketing services manager, orally assured GSA that Artists and Drafting Supplies was an authorized Chartpak dealer/distributor. On April 9, however, defendant Zaepfel wrote a contrary letter to S. H. Murphy, Contracting Officer at GSA, which generated this lawsuit. The letter said:
We received a call from Mr. Ferrito, representing the General Services Administration, requesting that Artist & Drafting Supplies of Newark, New Jersey be qualified as a supplier on the 1982 GSA contract for graphic art supplies.
I wish to respond to that request by stating that Chartpak cannot grant this authorization pending the outcome of the investigation by the Commanding General of Travis Air Force Base regarding alleged contract infractions by Artist & Drafting Supplies. We also have not heard any response from your office regarding the verbal allegations by current government accounts that Artist & Drafting Supplies was misrepresenting the current GSA contract. As you know, we have documented complaints from Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, Texas; CINCLANT Compound in Norfolk, Virginia; and the Ohio National Guard in Mansfield, Ohio.
Furthermore, we have had complaints from our dealers that Artist & Drafting Supplies has falsely represented the goods of other manufacturers as Chartpak product.
Due to these alleged improprieties, it is not in the best interest of the government, nor Chartpak, ...