On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
Before Judges King, A. M. Stein and A. A. Rodriguez.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
At the Conclusion of a bench trial, Judge Walls found that defendant law firm was liable to plaintiff employment agency for a placement fee. He entered judgment against defendant for $7,150, plus costs. We affirm.
During the end of April or the beginning of May 1989, Michele Francis, the proprietor of Michele Matthews, Inc., was contacted by George Wright, a partner in defendant firm. Wright was in charge of opening defendant's new office in Newark, New Jersey, and he was interested in finding an experienced litigation secretary for the new office. Francis faxed Wright a copy of plaintiff's fee agreement.
Francis arranged for six or seven candidates to be interviewed by Wright. One of the candidates was Laticia Howell, who had been previously interviewed and tested in plaintiff's offices.
On May 5, 1989, Wright interviewed Howell and the other candidates. Wright then contacted the firm's accounting director and faxed him plaintiff's fee schedule. He did not have the authority to approve plaintiff's fee.
About a week later, Wright contacted Francis and told her that the candidate in which he was most interested was Laticia Howell, but that he could not hire her because the firm would not approve the fee. Wright asked Francis whether there was any possibility of negotiating her fee. Francis responded that she could not negotiate the fee under New Jersey law. Wright then said that he would hire someone on his own through the newspaper. He contacted Gladys Williams in the firm's New York office and asked her to put an ad in the paper.
On May 11, 1989, plaintiff sent a letter to defendant acknowledging their conversation of that day. The letter stated in pertinent part:
After sending you six top-notch canidates [sic ] for your New Jersey secretarial position, your firm unfortunately decided not to extend anyone an offer. According to our conversation, this decision was based upon the fee difference, between New York and New Jersey, and your firm's policy to pay a maximum of 15%.
The canidates [sic ], Laticia Howell . . . find this decision very disappointing. However, all of the canidates [sic ], and myself included, found you to be a pleasure in any working situation.
If your firm changes its policy, please let me know. Perhaps we'll have the opportunity to work together again.
On May 17, 1989, an advertisement was placed in the Star Ledger seeking a secretary for defendant's Newark office. The ad, which ran ...