On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Camden County, Docket No. C-215-05.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted January 29, 2009
Before Judges Axelrad and Lihotz.
In this partition action, plaintiff moved for the release of escrowed funds realized from the sale of the subject realty. The Chancery judge denied the motion, concluding a previously filed consent order, which set forth the agreed provisions for the sale of the residential realty, closed the case. We reverse. The consent order was not a final judgment concluding all disputed issues. The matter was inadvertently closed. Therefore, a plenary hearing must be held to finalize the parties' claims to the escrowed funds.
These are the essential facts. On October 10, 1986, plaintiff Grace Hoop and defendant Edith Matela purchased a residence located at 1627 44th Street, Pennsauken, New Jersey (the property). Title was vested in the parties as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Plaintiff vacated the property and requested defendant either purchase her interest or sell the home. Defendant continued to reside in the residence. At some point, defendant's sister, Germindes Matela, moved into the property. On April 16, 2005, by quitclaim deed, defendant transferred her interest in the property to her sister.
Plaintiff commenced a Chancery action seeking sale of the property, which was not subject to partition, see Rule 4:63-1, and determination of the parties' respective interests in the proceeds realized from sale. Plaintiff filed an order to show cause to enjoin Germindes Matela from transferring or encumbering the realty.
Without the benefit of a hearing, the parties resolved the immediate matters raised in the order to show cause. On March 9, 2006, a consent order was filed, agreeing to obtain an appraisal of the property and provide for the buyout of plaintiff's interest. Defendant was given twenty days from receipt of the appraisal to purchase plaintiff's interest for one-half of the appraised value, subject to any claims by either party that would "add to her interest in the property." If defendant did not purchase the property, it would be sold. The consent order further stated:
In the event that the property is sold to a third party, any party may make claims for credits she believes should be taken from the net proceeds of sale. In the event of a disagreement as to the amount of proceeds due each party, an amount necessary to cover such claims shall be held in escrow by a person agreeable to all parties.
Ultimately, on July 31, 2007, the parties sold the residence to a third party. The parties could not resolve the claims raised for reimbursement of monies paid with respect to the property, so they agreed to escrow $50,000 of the sale proceeds pending resolution of the claims.
Plaintiff filed a motion, supported by her certification, for credits against defendant's share of the escrowed funds. In response, defendant filed a certification, objecting to plaintiff's demands for payment and stating the basis of her claim against the escrow.
Without oral argument, the Chancery judge denied plaintiff's motion stating:
This matter has been closed because it's resolved by consent order. Both parties are moving for their share of the proceeds that were held. This is summary judgment like in [the] way it's crafted. I don't know who's paid what and who deserves what based on what I have here.
There was a consent order. The consent order should be abided by. If it can't, counsel can reach the [c]court and we'll try and figure something out here. Maybe we'll send them, even though the case is closed, to mediation or ...