November 18, 2008
PATRICIA LAZOR, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
JOHN E. DZIADZIO AND LISA G. DZIADZIO, DEFENDANTS/THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
E. ALEXANDER LAZOR, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, Docket No. L-52-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued: October 29, 2008
Before Judges Cuff and Fisher.
On July 29, 2005, plaintiff Patricia Lazor and third-party defendant E. Alexander Lazor sold real property to defendants John E. and Lisa G. Dziadzio. At closing, the parties deposited $120,000 in an escrow account to defray the cost of repair or replacement of a septic system on the property. On January 3, 2006, plaintiff filed a complaint seeking apportionment and distribution of the escrow account.
Plaintiff and third-party defendant appeal from an order enforcing a settlement of the litigation. They argue that a definitive settlement was never reached between the parties. Specifically, plaintiff and third-party defendant present the following arguments:
II. Defendants Violated The Court Rules By Never Notifying The Court Of The Purported Settlement-However Defendants' Failure To Do So Underscores That The "Settlement" Was In A Proposal Stage
III. Attorneys Rubinsteins' Premature Turnover Of The $120,000 Cut Short And Ended Any Proposed Settlement.
IV. There Is No Enforceable Settlement Because
1) The Lazors Terminated Same When Defendants Took The $120,000 Without Authorization, 2) Defendants Themselves Violated The "Settlement" By Pursuing Their Fraud Claims, 3) Defendants Wrote The Trial Judge That There Was No Settlement, and 4)
Defendants Participated In A Case Management Conference And Obtained A Preemptory Trial.
In response to defendants' motion to enforce the settlement, Judge Ashrafi conducted an evidentiary hearing at which both attorneys testified. Following the hearing, the judge found that plaintiff's attorney had authority to settle the litigation on the terms proposed by defendants, that plaintiff transferred the sum required to settle the case as demanded by defendants' attorney, and that closing documentation was not an essential element of the settlement. Therefore, he found that the parties had reached a settlement.
We have thoroughly reviewed the record in light of the arguments presented by plaintiff and third-party defendant. We conclude that the findings of fact, including the findings concerning the credibility of plaintiff's and third-party defendant's attorney, are well-supported by the record, Rule 2:11-3(e)(1)(A), and the arguments presented are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion, Rule 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).