On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, L-345-99.
Before Judges Petrella, Bilder and Kimmelman.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bilder, J.A.D. (retired and temporarily assigned on recall)
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
This is a suit on a guaranty of corporate indebtedness in which the appealing defendant, Jean Addalia, has denied the genuineness of her signature, and her co-defendant former husband, Thomas Addalia, has admitted that it was he who signed her name, although he contends that he did so with her permission.
This matter has its genesis in a guaranty of the obligations of Thomas Addalia's flower business, JMMA, Inc., to plaintiff Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, Inc, signed by Thomas and purporting to bear the signature of Jean.
Delaware instituted suit against JMMA for goods sold and delivered and against Thomas and Jean on the guaranty. Jean filed an answer in which she denied the genuineness of her signature, alleged forgery, and denied knowledge of the transaction. Delaware then filed an amended complaint in which it added as a defendant the individual who claimed to have witnessed Jean's signature. This new defendant was dismissed on summary judgment.
After Thomas admitted in depositions that he had written Jean's signature on the guaranty, Delaware filed a second amended complaint adding a claim against Thomas for punitive damages based on the forgery of his wife's name on the guaranty. Jean did not answer either amended complaint and denies that the second amended complaint was served upon her.
A notice of July 10, 2000 was sent to the parties advising them that the case had been selected for mandatory, non-binding arbitration, scheduled for September 21, 2000. For reasons which do not appear in the record, the arbitration was adjourned, first to November 16, 2000, and finally to December 12, 2000. On the last adjourned date only the plaintiff appeared and, therefore, pursuant to R. 4:21A-4(f), the answers were stricken and an arbitration award was entered granting plaintiff judgment on each of the counts of its latest amended complaint. Thus, inter alia, an award was made against Jean in the sum of $143,627.53.
Thereafter plaintiff moved to confirm the award and reduce it to judgment. Jean moved to set aside the award and obtain a trial de novo. She appeals from an order denying her motion, confirming the award, and entering a judgment against her.
R. 4:21A-4(f), in pertinent part, provides:
If a party defending against a claim of damages does not appear, that party's pleading shall be stricken, the arbitration shall proceed and the non-appearing party shall be deemed to have waived the right to demand a trial de novo. Relief from any ...