April 23, 2008
JAMES SILVESTRI, LCSW, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
THE NEW JERSEY STATE BOARD OF SOCIAL WORK EXAMINERS, THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND BARBARA DIETRICK, DEFENDANTS, AND HORIZON BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-5468-04.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 8, 2008
Before Judges Coburn and Grall.
Plaintiff James Silvestri appeals from a judgment entered in the amount due under a settlement agreement that resolved plaintiff's claims against defendants Barbara Dietrick and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and defendants' counterclaims against him. Plaintiff contends that entry of the judgment was contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement. Our review of the record convinces us that the argument lacks sufficient merit to warrant any discussion beyond the brief comments that follow. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).
The pertinent paragraphs of the agreement provide:
PAYMENT -- "Silvestri" will pay Horizon $150,000.00 within thirty (30) days from April 17, 2006 (payment due on or before May 16, 2006). If payment is not made on that date "Silvestri" must show that he applied for refinancing by April 27, 2006. If the delay in payment to "Horizon" is caused by a bank delay in refinancing only, "Silvestri" will be give an additional twenty (20) days to pay "Horizon". If the delay is caused by "Silvestri", or by his action or inaction, then interest at the current rate pursuant to the Prompt Payment Statute will be paid.
CONFIDENTIALITY -- "Silvestri" and "Horizon" agree that the . . . contents or existence of this Agreement . . . will not be disclosed . . . except as necessary to enforce its terms . . . .
Plaintiff paid $125,000 on July 6, 2006. On August 8, 2006, Horizon demanded payment of the balance due plus interest. On August 16, 2006, Horizon filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The trial court entered judgment against plaintiff in the amount of $26,553.04.
The rules that govern interpretation of settlement agreements are clear. "A settlement agreement between parties to a lawsuit is a contract." Nolan v. Lee Ho, 120 N.J. 465, 472 (1990). "Generally, the terms of an agreement are to be given their plain and ordinary meaning." M.J. Paquet, Inc. v. New Jersey Dept. of Transp., 171 N.J. 378, 396 (2002). Entry of this judgment is consistent with the plain and ordinary meaning of the unambiguous terms of this agreement.
The agreement requires plaintiff to make payment by a certain date and specifies circumstances under which interest will be charged at a rate calculated pursuant to the Prompt Payment Statute. The agreement does not, as plaintiff contends, give plaintiff a right to withhold full payment beyond the specified date or limit defendants' remedy for late payment to collection of interest at a rate specified in the agreement. The agreement expressly contemplates actions to enforce without any limitation. Under this agreement, payment of interest at the rate specified is an additional, not an exclusive, remedy for plaintiff's untimely payment of the full amount due on the specified date.
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