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Sanders v. Rosenberg

July 30, 2008

ROBIN SANDERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER CHILDREN ROLAND SANDERS, RACHELLE D. BISHOP, AND ROSLYN SANDERS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MICHAEL ROSENBERG AND MARIE ROSENBERG, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs' breach of contract claim, which is the only remaining claim in the complaint. For the reasons expressed below, defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

This matter concerns defendants' alleged breach of contract resulting from mold in the townhouse plaintiffs rented from defendants. On August 4, 1998, plaintiff Robin Sanders entered into a lease with defendants, Michael and Marie Rosenberg, to rent their townhouse in Mays Landing, New Jersey. Ms. Sanders lived there with her three children, Roland, who is a minor, and Roslyn and Rachelle, who are both adults. Roslyn moved out in November 2003, and the other three moved out on January 27, 2004.

During their tenancy, plaintiffs claim that the townhouse suffered from multiple leaks, which caused mold to develop. Plaintiffs claim that they saw water stains when they moved into the townhouse, and first saw active leaks in March 1999. Plaintiffs asked defendants to repair the leaks, but even though defendants sometimes attempted to repair the leaks, the leaks persisted and mold developed. Plaintiffs allege that this mold caused them repeated and continuous respiratory illnesses, sleep disorders, and other illnesses. Plaintiffs began to see physicians about their illnesses in approximately October 2003.

In December 2003, Ms. Sanders hired Coastal Environmental Compliance, LLC to conduct an indoor air quality and mold investigation. A follow-up visit and testing on the property was conducted on January 26, 2004. Plaintiffs left the property at the end of January 2004 because the defendants were going to sell it.

On December 29, 2005, plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint against the defendants in New Jersey state court, alleging negligence, breach of contract, and violation of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act. On March 24, 2006, defendants removed the case to this Court. Defendants moved for summary judgment in their favor on all three of the claims against them.

In the Court's April 10, 2008 opinion, summary judgment was granted on plaintiffs' negligence and New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act claims. Summary judgment was denied, however, on the breach of contract claim because it was not clear whether plaintiffs were seeking tort damages or contract damages. In their complaint, plaintiffs sought reimbursement of rent, compensatory damages, attorneys fees, costs of suit, interest and any other just and proper relief. In their brief opposing summary judgment, plaintiffs clarified that they were seeking contract damages, i.e., rent reimbursement. Because of that clarification in plaintiffs' briefing, the Court afforded defendants the opportunity to file another motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs' breach of contract claim if they chose to do so. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment in their favor on plaintiffs' breach of contract claim. Plaintiffs have not opposed defendants' motion.*fn1

DISCUSSION

A. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable ...


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