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Adamar of New Jersey, Inc. v. Mason

March 19, 2008

ADAMAR OF NEW JERSEY, INC., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DAVID MASON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Atlantic County, DC-001127-86.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Axelrad, J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued: January 24, 2008

Before Judges Axelrad, Payne and Messano*fn1.

This appeal involves the narrow issue of whether a valid New Jersey judgment that remains unpaid with no outstanding impediment to judicial enforcement can be extended for an additional twenty years by a timely motion for revival under N.J.S.A. 2A:14-5. The trial court granted the creditor's motion for renewal of its judgment, and we affirm.

On October 7, 1986, plaintiff (creditor) obtained a New Jersey judgment against appellant, a Pennsylvania resident, in the amount of $5,028 in the Special Civil Part, which it docketed. In April l987, it recorded the judgment in Pennsylvania and unsuccessfully levied on appellant's bank account. On August 30, 2006, the creditor filed a motion in New Jersey to renew its judgment for an additional twenty years. It provided a copy of the judgment and a certification respecting validity, nonpayment, and lack of outstanding impediments to enforcement. Based on the post-judgment interest calculation, the creditor sought a renewed judgment in the amount of $10,111.51, plus costs and fees.

Appellant filed an opposing certification admitting liability on the underlying judgment and explaining the reasons for his inability to make payments during the past twenty years and for his unlikely ability to satisfy the debt in the future.

He argued the Legislature had only given a judgment a twenty-year life, and there was no statutory or legal authority to extend the judgment further just because the creditor failed to execute upon, or unsuccessfully executed upon, its judgment during that time. According to appellant: (1) the statutory right to "revive" the judgment must be premised on a deficiency in the underlying judgment, such as invalid recordation; and (2) the tolling and extension of the twenty-year limitation period is restricted to situations specifically provided for by statute, such as service of process problems, N.J.S.A. 2A:14-22. Because appellant had resided in the same location for the past twenty years and the creditor was not impeded from effecting execution or service of process against him during that time, appellant argued that the creditor had no basis upon which to extend its judgment.

Judge Nugent entered an order on October 27, 2006, granting the creditor's motion. The court found the creditor proved the following elements necessary to revive a judgment in compliance with Kronstadt v. Kronstadt, 238 N.J. Super. 614, 616-18 (App. Div. l990): (1) the judgment is valid and subsisting; (2) it remains unpaid in full; (3) there is no outstanding impediment to its judicial enforcement, e.g., a stay, a pending bankruptcy proceeding, an outstanding injunctive order, or the like; and (4) the action to revive was commenced within twenty years after the date the judgment was entered. The court noted appellant's unfortunate circumstances and excuses for nonpayment but found they did not negate the elements of proof established by the creditor, which were the only proofs relevant to renewing its judgment for an additional twenty-year period. This appeal ensued.

The debtor renews his arguments on appeal. We find them unavailing. Appellant's position that the Legislature has only allowed a creditor a twenty-year time period to collect its judgment involves an unduly restrictive reading of N.J.S.A. 2A:14-5 that is inconsistent with the plain language of this statute and N.J.S.A. 2A:17-3, and is contrary to the case law.

N.J.S.A. 2A:14-5 has remained virtually unchanged for over two hundred years.*fn2 It states, in pertinent part:

A judgment in any court of record in this state may be revived by proper proceedings or an action at law may be commenced thereon within 20 years next after ...


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