July 30, 2008
CHRYSLER FINANCIAL COMPANY, L.L.C., SUCCESSOR BY MERGER TO CHRYSLER FINANCIAL CORP., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
DOLORES V. PYDESKI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND ELAINE V. PYDESKI, A/K/A ELAINE A. DINICOLA, DEFENDANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Docket No. L-3036-00.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted July 1, 2008
Before Judges Cuff and Fuentes.
Defendant Dolores Pydeski appeals from the order of the Law Division denying her motion to vacate judgment under Rule 4:50- 1(f). The judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff Chrysler Financial Company, L.L.C. ("Chrysler"), in connection with a car loan. We affirm. The following procedural and factual history is undisputed.
On June 11, 1997, Dolores Pydeski and her daughter Elaine Pydeski, a/k/a Elaine DiNicola, entered into a contract to purchase a motor vehicle from Liccardi Motors. Chrysler financed the purchase, lending defendants $30,849.84 at an interest rate of 10.70%, payable over a period of sixty months. The contract designated Dolores as "buyer" and Elaine as "co-buyer." Elaine also signed a separate document denoted as "Notice to Co-Signer," specifically stating that she was guaranteeing the debt and may be liable for the full amount of the loan. The Notice also included the following language:
You may have to pay the full amount of the debt if the borrower does not pay. You may also have to pay late fees or collection costs, which increase this amount.
The creditor can collect this debt from you without first trying to collect from the borrower. The creditor can use the same collection methods against you that can be used against the borrower, such as suing you, garnishing your wages, etc. If this debt is ever in default, that fact may become a part of your credit record.
On June 22, 2000, Chrysler filed a complaint against defendants seeking collection of the loan. On July 17, 2000, service of process was effectuated upon Dolores Pydeski by the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office at 24 Algonquin Avenue, Oceanport, by leaving a copy of the Summons and Complaint with Todd Pydeski, Dolores's grandson. The court entered default judgment on April 3, 2001. A writ of execution was thereafter issued on October 14, 2004.
On April 5, 2006, the Monmouth County Sheriff levied an account held by Dolores Pydeski at the Wachovia Bank Long Branch branch. On April 17, 2006, the Sheriff formally notified Dolores Pydeski that the account had been levied in the amount of $29,983.30. The levy notice advised Dolores that "the funds will not be taken from your account until the Court so orders."
On April 21, 2006, Chrysler filed a motion for an order directing Wachovia Bank to turn over the monies levied upon from Dolores Pydeski's account. The motion was served upon Dolores. On August 18, 2006, the court entered an order directing the turnover of funds. The order specifically noted that there had not been any opposition to the motion for turnover of funds. On November 2, 2006, Chrysler executed a warrant to satisfy judgment, indicating that the levied funds had been turned over, and that the judgment against Dolores was fully satisfied. The warrant of satisfaction was formally recorded with the Clerk of the Superior Court on January 3, 2007.
On August 24, 2007, Dolores Pydeski filed a motion seeking to vacate the judgment. In her certification in support of the motion, dated September 10, 2007, Dolores Pydeski alleges that since 1957 she has lived at 16 Dunster Street, Carteret, New Jersey. She was therefore unaware of the service of process made upon her grandson in Oceanport. Pydeski further alleges that she first became aware of the judgment against her on April 6, 2006, when the Monmouth County Sheriff notified her that her Wachovia account had been levied. She offers no explanation, however, for delaying over seventeen months before deciding to seek judicial relief.
Against these facts, the trial court held that Dolores Pydeski had not established sufficient grounds entitling her to relief from judgment under Rule 4:50-1(f). We agree. Subsection (f) provides that a default judgment may be vacated for "any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment or order." Ordinarily, applications for relief under Rule 4:50-1 should be treated by the trial court with great liberality. Mancini v. EDS ex rel. N.J. Auto. Full Ins. Underwriting Ass'n, 132 N.J. 330, 334 (1993).
Relief under subsection (f), however, is applied "sparingly, in exceptional situations" to prevent grave injustice. Cmty. Realty Mgmt., Inc. v. Harris, 155 N.J. 212, 237 (1998) (quoting Hous. Auth. of Morristown v. Little, 135 N.J. 274, 289 (1994)). The policy furthering finality of judgments plays an even more significant role under subsection (f) than in other subsections of the Rule. First Morris Bank & Trust v. Roland Offset Serv., Inc., 357 N.J. Super. 68, 71 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 176 N.J. 429 (2003).
Here, even if we were to accept that Dolores Pydeski was unaware of the action and default until April 2006, she has not offered any explanation for failing to act for seventeen months thereafter. Her claims that Liccardi Motors engaged in unconscionable commercial practices in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, in allegedly failing to inform her that she was signing the contract as a "buyer," and not as a "co-signer," belies the record before us, and does not warrant the exercise of equitable principles. We thus discern no basis to conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion to vacate the judgment.
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