On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County.
Gaulkin, R. S. Cohen and Arnold M. Stein. The opinion of the court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.
This is a suit to enforce a Florida judgment. We hold that in an action to enforce a money judgment of a sister state, ownership of an interest in New Jersey real estate is sufficient to establish jurisdiction over the person of the judgment debtor.
Following a contested trial, plaintiff obtained a $30,000 judgment against defendant and another in the Eleventh Circuit Judicial Court, Dade County, Florida. Plaintiff, who was unable to satisfy the judgment in Florida, learned that defendant had an ownership interest in a multi-story building located at 2906 Bergenline Avenue in Union City. The building contains at least one store and several apartment units. Defendant's name appears on the mailbox for the first floor apartment, together with a note indicating that if there is no answer at the
apartment, the inquirer is to contact either the store or a third floor tenant by the name of "Alonzo." The note was signed "Maria." Maria is defendant's first name.
Plaintiff commenced this action to enforce the Florida judgment by obtaining a judgment in New Jersey pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. IV, § 1. See, also, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1738. Once judgment is obtained in New Jersey, plaintiff could levy on defendant's interest in the Union City property.
After filing his complaint, plaintiff obtained an order from the Law Division permitting service upon defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested, at three locations: 2906 Bergenline Avenue, the building in which defendant had an interest; 2414 Bergenline Avenue, Union City, a location where defendant received utility bills for the building; and upon the bank which held the mortgage upon the building. Additionally, plaintiff had defendant personally served at her residence in Miami, Florida. Adequate notice to defendant of the law suit is therefore not in issue.
Defendant filed an answer to plaintiff's complaint, asserting that because she was a nonresident, the New Jersey courts did not have jurisdiction over her person.
The parties then cross-moved for summary judgment, plaintiff seeking full faith and credit for his Florida judgment and defendant claiming lack of personal jurisdiction. The Law Division judge granted defendant's motion, holding
We disagree. We need not decide whether there would be sufficient minimum contacts to confer personal jurisdiction in New Jersey if plaintiff's claim against defendant were an original matter. Cf. Avdel Corporation v. Mecure, 58 N.J. 264, 268 (1971) (our long-arm rule permits jurisdiction to be obtained against nonresident defendants to the outer limits permitted by
due process). Plaintiff has already obtained a valid judgment against defendant in Florida, a sister state. That judgment is entitled to the protection of the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Ownership by defendant of an asset in New Jersey is sufficient to confer the personal jurisdiction necessary for plaintiff to reduce the Florida judgment to a judgment in this forum. Any other result would give license to a judgment debtor from another jurisdiction to hide assets in a state ...