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Jenkins v. Region Nine Housing Corp.

December 1, 1997

SHIRLEY JENKINS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
REGION NINE HOUSING CORP., A CORPORATION AUTHORIZED TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY, REGION NINE MANAGEMENT CORP., A CORPORATION AUTHORIZED TO DO BUSINESS IN NEW JERSEY, NORTH BRUNSWICK HOUSING ASSOCIATES, AN UNINCORPORATED BUSINESS ASSOCIATION, NORTH BRUNSWICK HOUSING ASSOCIATES, A CORPORATION, NEW BRUNSWICK UAW ASSOCIATES, AN UNINCORPORATED BUSINESS ASSOCIATION, NEW BRUNSWICK UAW ASSOCIATES, A CORPORATION, IRVINGTON UAW CORPORATION, AN UNINCORPORATED BUSINESS ASSOCIATION, IRVINGTON UAW CORPORATION, JOAN WILK, AND KATHERINE YOUNG, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County.

Approved for Publication December 1, 1997.

Before Judges Dreier, Keefe and Wecker. The opinion of the court was delivered by Wecker, J.A.D.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wecker

The opinion of the court was delivered by

WECKER, J.A.D.

Plaintiff, Shirley Jenkins, appeals from summary judgments dismissing her second amended complaint against defendants Region Nine Housing Corporation, Region Nine Management Corporation, North Brunswick Housing Associates, New Brunswick UAW Associates, Irvington UAW Associates, Irvington UAW Corporation, Joan Wilk and Katherine Young. *fn1 Plaintiff's second amended complaint purported to allege several causes of action against the corporate and partnership defendants: breach of contract, fraud, promissory estoppel, and wrongful discharge. Against the individual defendants, plaintiff alleged intentional interference with economic advantage.

In lieu of answering plaintiff's complaint, defendants initially moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint "pursuant to R. 4:6-2(e) or alternatively R. 4:46.". The Judge heard argument on the motion on three separate dates, eventually granting a renewed motion to dismiss the entire second amended complaint.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss on the pleadings, we must give the plaintiff the benefit of "every reasonable inference of fact" and read the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Printing Mart v. Sharp Electronics, Inc. 116 N.J. 739, 746, 563 A.2d 31 (1989).

The examination of a complaint's allegations of fact required by the aforestated principles should be one that is at once painstaking and undertaken with a generous and hospitable approach.

[Id.]

We conclude that plaintiff's breach of contract and fraud claims against the entity defendants were properly dismissed and affirm as to those portions of the summary judgment. However, we conclude that the motion Judge erred in dismissing plaintiff's claims against the entities based upon promissory estoppel, and against the individual defendants for intentional interference with economic advantage. We therefore reverse and remand for trial on those claims.

Jenkins had worked from January 1992 through September 1993 as a site manager for one or more of the entity defendants who own or operate federally subsidized, non-profit housing projects. She left voluntarily for a better paying job and was contacted in August 1994 by defendant Wilk to solicit her return as a property manager. Wilk and her daughter, Katherine Young, were employed by defendant Region Nine Housing Corporation, *fn2 the "managing entity" for the partnerships which previously employed Jenkins. Wilk was the Chief Administrator for Region Nine. Young was her assistant.

Wilk and Jenkins agreed that Jenkins would come back to work with a total annual "package" of $50,000, which included a $300 per month car allowance, health insurance, holidays, vacation, and related benefits. Because this new job covered three different sites, Jenkins needed a car, which she did not have and could not afford without the salary package promised. Wilk took Jenkins to Thomas Lincoln-Mercury in Westfield, where Wilk and others in the company had leased their cars. There Jenkins signed a two-year lease for a Mercury Sable, at $372 per month. On behalf of Jenkins' new employers, Wilk advanced the $742 downpayment, which was deducted from Jenkins' first several paychecks. Plaintiff was hired and received paychecks from three limited partnerships, defendants North Brunswick Housing Associates, New Brunswick UAW Associates and Irvington UAW Associates, each of which owned one of the three buildings that she managed. Jenkins had worked for a little more than four months when she was terminated without warning, and told "it wasn't working out." She was left with the automobile lease obligation which she cannot afford but has been forced to pay even though she does not need the car.

Katherine Young's husband, William, was hired by Region Nine Housing Corporation to do computer work in November 1994, shortly before plaintiff was fired. Jenkins points to the fact that William Young had been unemployed for some time, and was hired by the company in November 1994 after his unemployment insurance ran out. Jenkins claims that defendants Wilks and Young unjustifiably criticized her to induce the management to fire her, so that William Young could be employed in her stead. The evidence is that he did take over management of one of the sites that Jenkins had managed, but did not take over her entire ...


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