On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Docket No. SC-2347-06.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lihotz, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted November 8, 2007
Before Judges Cuff, Lisa and Lihotz.
Defendant Robin Mohrmann, a private dog breeder, appeals from a Special Civil Part judgment awarding plaintiff Carol Maguire $1,399.52, plus $21 in court costs. Mohrmann sold Maguire a brown and white English Springer Spaniel puppy for $1,000 on August 11, 2006. The puppy died five days later. Prior to instituting legal action, Maguire informed Mohrmann of the dog's death and obtained a veterinary certification that the puppy had been certified "unfit for sale." The puppy was suspected to have an "underlying infectious parasite, metabolic, congenital disorder." Maguire did not deliver the veterinarian's certification to Mohrmann; she attached it to her complaint.
At trial, after presentation of plaintiff's evidence, Mohrmann moved to dismiss the complaint because Maguire failed to provide her with the veterinarian's certification, thus preventing Mohrmann from securing an autopsy. The trial judge denied the motion because Maguire had provided oral notice. The trial judge then voided the contract based upon mutual mistake and awarded plaintiff the purchase price of the dog and the veterinary expense.
On appeal, Mohrmann asserts the trial judge erred by applying contract principles in light of the specific regulations that control the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Mohrmann maintains that plaintiff's recovery was specifically conditioned on the delivery of the certification that the animal was unfit for sale. Maguire's noncompliance eliminated her ability to obtain relief. We disagree and affirm the trial court's judgment.
When Maguire purchased the puppy, Mohrmann gave her a statement entitled "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS- A STATEMENT OF NEW JERSEY LAW GOVERNING THE SALE OF DOGS AND CATS." The document, executed by both purchaser and seller, states:
The sale of dogs and cats is subject to a regulation of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. In the event that a licensed Veterinarian certifies your animal to be unfit for purchase within 14 days following the receipt of your animal or within six months in the case of a congenital or hereditary cause or condition, you may:
I. Return your animal and receive a refund of the purchase price.
II. Keep you[r] animal and attempt to cure it; or
III. Return your animal and receive an animal of your choice of equivalent value.
Further, in the event of your animal's death within this 14-day period, except where death occurs by accident or as a result of injuries sustained after delivery, you may choose to receive either a full refund of the purchase price or an animal of your choice of equivalent value. In addition, veterinary fees ...