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Family Realty Co. v. Secaucus Town

November 7, 1996

FAMILY REALTY CO., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SECAUCUS TOWN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kuskin

Family Realty Co. filed a timely petition of appeal with the Hudson County Board of Taxation ("County Board") contesting the 1995 tax assessment on property in Secaucus. On the adjourned hearing date, no one appeared on behalf of the petitioner, and the County Board dismissed the appeal for lack of prosecution pursuant to N.J.A.C. 18:12A-1.9(e). ("In the case of failure to appear, the board may dismiss the petition for lack of prosecution.") Plaintiff appealed to the Tax Court. Based on the County Board dismissal, Secaucus moves to dismiss plaintiff's appeal pursuant to N.J.S.A. 54:51A-1c(2). ("If the tax court shall determine that the appeal to the county board of taxation has been ... (2) dismissed because of appellant's failure to prosecute the appeal at a hearing called by the county tax board..., there shall be no review.") Plaintiff opposes the motion on the grounds that it did not receive notice of the County Board adjourned hearing date because the County Board failed to give such notice in accordance with written instructions from plaintiff's representative. These instructions were received by the County Board after the Petition of Appeal was filed but before the hearing notice was mailed.

This Opinion amplifies my oral opinion delivered on November 7, 1996.

I

Plaintiff filed its appeal using the printed form of Petition of Appeal provided by the County Board. The Petition form requested, among other information, 1) a mailing address for the Petitioner and 2) the name and address to be used for notices. In response to the first request, Plaintiff designated 550 Secaucus Road, Secaucus, NJ 07094 as its mailing address. Plaintiff's response to the second request was as follows (the printed portion of the form being in boldfaced type):

"Name, Telephone No. and Address of Attorney - or person to be notified of hearing and judgment

Bernard Bohrer, 550 Secaucus Rd., Secaucus, NJ 07094 (201) 865-8000

Arthur Max, 400 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, NJ 07094 Phone (201) 867-6777. "

The Petition was signed by Arthur Max.

The County Board sent to Mr. Max, at 400 Plaza Drive, Secaucus, a notice scheduling the subject appeal for hearing on June 20, 1995. On June 27, 1995, Mr. Max telephoned the County Board to inquire as to the status of the appeal. He was then advised that a hearing had been scheduled for June 20, 1995, that no one appeared, and that the hearing date had been adjourned. During such telephone conversation, Mr. Max expressed his dismay that he had not received notice of the hearing and stated his concern that a letter addressed to him personally, without the name of his company, might not be delivered by a substitute for the regular mail deliverer. The tenant directory sign at Mr. Max's office building did not contain his name but did contain the name of his company, Weintraub, Casey, Zurkow & Max, Inc. Because of his concern, Mr. Max, on June 27, 1995, wrote to the County Board, to the attention of Josephine DeMeo, in relevant part as follows:

"Re: Family Realty Co., 550 Secaucus Rd., Secaucus, NJ, Number 2213 [the appeal number assigned by the County Board to the Family Realty Co. appeal]

Dear Ms. DeMeo:

Confirming our telephone conversation of this afternoon, please forward any future notices of hearing date to me addressed as below.

Arthur L. Max, Esq., c/o Weintraub, Casey, Zurkow & Max, Inc., 400 Plaza Drive, ...


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