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R. Jennings Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Northern Elec. Supply Co.

August 10, 1995


On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Middlesex County.

Approved for Publication January 5, 1996.

Before Judges Brody, Long and P.g. Levy. The opinion of the court was delivered by Long, P.j.a.d.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Long

The opinion of the court was delivered by LONG, P.J.A.D.

The underlying facts in this case are set forth in detail in our prior opinion of January 6, 1993. Only the facts relevant to the narrow issue of the interest rate to be applied to the judgment will be related here.

On March 19, 1991, after a trial in this contract action, the trial Judge entered judgment in favor of plaintiff R. Jennings Manufacturing Company, Inc., (Jennings) against defendant Northern Electric Supply Co., Inc. (Northern) in the amount of $57,049.00 with pre-judgment interest calculated from February 1, 1989, in accordance with the New Jersey Court Rules.

Jennings appealed and Northern cross appealed on the merits. We remanded the case to the trial Judge because he had failed to set forth the findings of fact and Conclusions of law on which the judgment was based. We also directed the Judge to advise us why he chose February 1, 1989, as the point from which pre-judgment interest should be calculated.

On May 20, 1993, the trial Judge rendered a full opinion setting forth the reasons for the entry of the 1991 judgment. He also explained how he determined the February 1, 1989 commencement date for pre-judgment interest. In so doing, he altered his original opinion only to the extent that he ordered pre-judgment interest to be recalculated based, not upon the Court Rules, but upon the contract between the parties which stated:

Our quotations are firm for acceptance for 30 days, and the prices are firm for shipment by August 16, 1988. If shipments are scheduled after that date, add 1% per month or subsequently delayed by the customer, payment will be due 30 days after the material is ready for shipment. In the event of partial shipments, material will be invoiced on a pro rata basis. Amounts paid over 30 days past invoice date will be charged 2% per month or fraction thereof.

On August 9, 1993, we affirmed. Thereafter, on August 10, 1993, the trial Judge entered an amended judgment which stated:

Ordered, that judgment be entered in favor of the plaintiff, R. Jennings Manufacturing Company, Inc. and against the defendant, Northern Electric Supply Company, Inc. in the sum of $57,049.00 together with pre-judgment interest at the rate of 2% per month from February 1, 1989 through August 9, 1993 in the amount of $60,518.00 making a total of $120,180.25.

Northern appeals, contending that the contract rate of interest was only applicable until the date the initial judgment of March 19, 1991, was entered and that any interest after that date is post-judgment interest which should have been calculated at a rate no greater than that provided in R. 4:42-11(a). Jennings cross appeals on the ground that the parties contracted for the rate of interest to be applied to an unpaid obligation and that that rate (2% per month) should apply through September 23, 1993, the date upon which the principal amount of the debt ($57,049) was finally paid.

It is well-settled that a judgment-creditor is entitled to interest on an unsatisfied judgment. Simon v. New Jersey Asphalt & Paving Co., 123 N.J.L. 232, 234, 8 A.2d 256 (Sup. Ct. 1939) (citing Erie Railway Co. v. Ackerson, 33 N.J.L. 33, 36 (Sup. Ct. 1868)); Cohrs v. Igoe Bros., Inc., 66 N.J. Super. 526, 528, 169 A.2d 524 (Law Div. 1961) ("The practice of permitting interest on judgments is of long-standing in New Jersey; the practice was apparently adopted from that of the English courts as a part of the early common law of New Jersey."), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 71 N.J. Super. 435 (App. Div. 1962). Our case law distinguishes between pre-judgment interest as a discretionary allowance, and post-judgment interest to which a litigant is entitled as of right. Board of Educ. v. Levitt, 197 N.J. Super. 239, 244-45, 484 A.2d 723 (App. Div. 1984). Both the appeal and the cross appeal raise the same question: what post-judgment interest rate is to be applied where a rate of interest greater than that set forth in the Court Rules is provided for in the contract between the parties. Rule 4:42-11(a), entitled "Post Judgment Interest," specifically provides:

"Except as otherwise ordered by the court or provided by law, judgments, awards and orders for the payment of money, taxed costs and counsel fees ...

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