On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, L-5813-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Kestin and Payne.
Plaintiff, Zois Shuttié, an artist, appeals from an order of summary judgment, entered against him on statute of limitations grounds, dismissing his action for conversion of his artwork, instituted against defendants, Stephanos Mikelis, Demetri Mikelis, Katia Mikelis, and the estate of George Mikelis.
We derive the facts of the matter from the allegations of Shuttié's pro se complaint, filed on August 16, 2005,*fn1 and from documents included in the record on appeal.
In 1991, when in urgent need of dental work, Shuttié consulted George Mikelis, who then worked as a dentist in the Gary Boyajian Dental Clinic in Little Ferry. Dr. Mikelis estimated that the work would cost about $3,000 but, Shuttié alleged, "he would take one of my paintings as payment." Approximately one month later, Dr. Mikelis "came with his younger brother, Steve, to [Shuttié's] studio and selected an artwork worth $25,000 - $30,000 . . . and he took the painting with him." Seeking to place the agreement for services in writing, Shuttié drafted a contract in which he claims that he "demanded that [Dr. Mikelis] pay [Shuttié] $5,000 extra to any dental and lab estimation he may come up with."
The agreement, dated May 24, 1991, which differs somewhat from Shuttié's allegations, provided:
I . . . agree to finish the entire dental work of my patient Zois Shuttié, a renown artist, I had started in mid-January of this year.
I agree that I would claim no lab and no surgery-implant fee from my patient, if he would drop his claim of my paying him an additional $5,000 (Five thousand) towards the $25,000 to $30,000 painting value I selected to have, as est[i]mated by the OK HARRIS Gallery.
I agree to complete the entire dental work of my patient Zois Shuttié to a full satisfaction and comfort for him for no additional expenses that may [o]ccur, due to lab fees, materials, or extended labor time. I agree that upon my failing to fulfill my professional obligation, my patient, the Artist Zois Shuttié, is entitled to recover his art work, which is in my custody in good faith since February of this year.
In case the patient Zois Shuttié discontinues to follow-up his visit in this clinic for any other reason than health problems caused by this clinic practice, I agree to return to him his artwork with an additional rental-fee, as applicable by the law of the state.
In case of any unexpected mishap may change the course of life, such as accidents, ailment, or death, and moving out of the country, I agree to contact his relatives in Albania to ...