December 28, 2007
69 MAPLE AVENUE, INC. D/B/A MILFORD MANOR, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
ESTATE OF THOMAS MURRAY AND ALLEN MURRAY, DEFENDANTS, AND AINE GLAVEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, No. L-4212-03.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued October 24, 2007
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and R. B. Coleman.
Plaintiff 69 Maple Avenue, Inc., d/b/a Milford Manor, filed suit in January 2004 against the Estate of Thomas Murray, Allen Murray and Aine Glavey to recover the sum of $38,474.30 it alleged was due and owing for the care and services it had provided to Thomas Murray prior to his death in February 2003. Defendant Glavey filed an answer in which she asserted she had no responsibility for these charges because she had no legal relationship with Thomas Murray and had not signed any documents agreeing to be responsible for his care. She also asserted a cross-claim against Allen Murray, the decedent's brother, as well as a counterclaim against plaintiff under the frivolous claims statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1.
In March 2004 plaintiff dismissed its claim against Allen Murray, having negotiated a settlement for $3,750. In February 2006, after plaintiff received reimbursement from Medicaid, it filed a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice.*fn1
Defendant Glavey then filed a motion under N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1. Plaintiff did not file any opposition to the motion, which the trial court granted. Plaintiff later filed a motion for reconsideration. In support of its motion, plaintiff contended that it had possessed a reasonable basis to assert a claim against Glavey. It noted in particular that she had failed to provide documentation plaintiff had requested in connection with decedent's Medicaid application; that it had learned of the existence of three checks to Glavey on decedent's accounts totaling $8,000; that decedent, while a patient at Milford Manor, had signed an affidavit of forgery in connection with those checks; and that Glavey had provided false information to it about decedent's finances.
The trial court granted plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. It added the following to the order plaintiff had submitted with its motion:
This court finds that the claims originally brought against defendant were done so in good faith and there was information that warranted the bringing of the causes of action against defendant Aine Glavey.
Defendant Glavey appealed after the trial court later denied her motion for reconsideration.
We are uncertain of the basis upon which the trial court concluded that plaintiff had a good faith basis to assert that defendant Glavey had a legal obligation with respect to decedent's nursing home bills. The nature of the relationship between Glavey and decedent is unclear on this record. He occupied a portion of her premises, but it is uncertain whether that was out of friendship or a landlord-tenant relationship for which she had a reasonable expectation of compensation. Further, from the record before us, it is apparent that there is a significant question as to decedent's mental capacity at the time he executed the affidavit of forgery. Further, it is unclear to us what authorized plaintiff to pursue defendant Glavey if, indeed, she had improperly appropriated to herself some of decedent's funds. In short, we are unable to determine the basis upon which the trial court concluded that plaintiff had commenced this litigation against Glavey in good faith.
We, therefore, reverse the order under review and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings. We do not attempt to set forth the parameters of the remand proceedings. We leave that to the trial court, after conducting a case management conference with the attorneys to determine what further discovery, if any, and procedures should be employed. We do not retain jurisdiction.
Reversed and remanded.