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Joel v. Morrocco

February 26, 1997

KENNETH E. JOEL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
VINCENT MORROCCO AND JOSEPH PARLAVECCHIO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND JOSEPH SILVESTRI, DEFENDANT.



On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

The opinion of the Court was delivered by O'hern, J. Chief Justice Poritz and Justices Handler, Pollock, Garibaldi, Stein and Coleman join in Justice O'HERN's opinion.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'hern

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

Kenneth E. Joel v. Vincent Morrocco and Joseph Parlavecchio, et al. (A-19-96)

Argued September 25, 1996 -- Decided February 26, 1997

O'HERN, J., writing for a unanimous Court.

This appeal, like Gelber v. The Zito Partnership, also decided today, concerns an application of the entire controversy doctrine. The specific issue is whether a party making a judicial challenge to zoning approvals granted to a partnership must name in that land-use suit the individual partners as a precondition to later enforcement of a monetary settlement against those partners.

The Keyport Planning Board granted permits to Watersedge, a partnership, to construct condominium units on premises that adjoined property owned by Ethel Maloy (Maloy). Maloy sued to set aside the approvals in October 1987. In May 1988, the Superior Court set aside the approvals. Watersedge thereafter reapplied and the Planning Board approved a scaled down version of the project. After Maloy again filed suit to void the action of the Planning Board, Watersedge offered to settle her claims for a sum of money. When Maloy sought to be paid, the partnership denied that there had been a settlement. She, therefore, moved to enforce the settlement.

The trial court entered an order requiring the partnership to execute the settlement agreement and to make the payments called for in the agreement. When the partnership still refused to honor the settlement, the court appointed an attorney-in-fact to execute the settlement documents in behalf of the partnership. Thereafter, Maloy assigned her rights in the settlement to her attorney, Kenneth Joel (Joel). When Joel deposed Vincent Morrocco, a Watersedge partner, he learned for the first time that Joseph Parlavecchio also was a member of the partnership.

In December 1992, Joel brought an action in the Law Division against the individual Watersedge partners to require payment of the settlement. On the partners' motion, the trial court dismissed the complaint, finding it barred under the entire controversy doctrine due to the failure to have joined the individual partners of Watersedge in the initial (land use) action. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed, holding that the entire controversy doctrine already required that a contract creditor sue both the partnership and the partners in one action so that all issues could be decided expeditiously.

The Supreme Court granted Joel's petition for certification.

HELD: Joinder of the individual Watersedge partners was not necessary to the resolution of the zoning suit and the individual partners may not invoke the entire controversy doctrine as a defense to their liability on the monetary settlement made on behalf of the partnership.

1. The three objectives behind the entire controversy doctrine are to encourage the comprehensive and conclusive determination of a legal controversy; to achieve party fairness; and to promote judicial economy and efficiency by avoiding fragmented, multiple and duplicative litigation. (pp. 2-4)

2. Fairness in the context of party joinder focuses on basic fairness to all of the parties, but especially to those named in the second suit who claim prejudice from ...


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