April 3, 2009
BROWN MOSKOWITZ & KALLEN, P.C., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
TONY GOMES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND COLUMBUS HOLDING CO., INC., DEFENDANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. L-2646-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted March 17, 2009
Before Judges Fuentes and Gilroy.
Defendant Tony Gomes appeals from the August 14, 2008 order that entered judgment against him and co-defendant Columbus Holding Co., Inc. (Columbus) (collectively, the defendants) in the amount of $40,996.86. We affirm.
Gomes is part owner of several corporations, including Columbus and Tony Gomes Construction, Inc. On March 19, 2005, Armindo Graca, a former employee and partial owner of Gomes Construction, filed a complaint against Gomes, Columbus, and other third parties. On April 26, 2006, defendants engaged plaintiff law firm to represent them in the Graca action, pursuant to an executed retainer agreement. On January 5, 2007, the trial court entered an order relieving the plaintiff law firm as counsel for defendants. On January 16, 2007, plaintiff sent defendants a pre-action notice pursuant to Rule 1:20A-6 of plaintiff's intent to file suit to recover outstanding legal fees and costs that it incurred in defending defendants against the Graca lawsuit.
On April 2, 2007, plaintiff filed its book account complaint seeking to recover $27,480.03 from defendants. Gomes filed a pro se answer, and Columbus filed an answer through counsel. On February 26, 2008, the matter proceeded to non-binding arbitration pursuant to Rule 4:21A-1. Following the arbitrator's award, Columbus filed a demand for trial de novo.
R. 4:21A-6(b). On March 18, 2008, pursuant to Rule 4:58-1, plaintiff filed an offer to take judgment against defendants in the amount of $21,000, representing approximately 70% of the amount claimed. The offer was refused.
The matter was tried to a jury on July 14, 16, and 17, 2008, after which the jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff for the total amount sought, $27,480.03. Because the verdict was greater than 120% of the offer to take judgment, the trial court awarded plaintiff counsel fees and interest in the amount of $11,158.50. R. 4:58-2(a). On August 14, 2008, the court entered a confirming order of judgment in the amount of $40,996.86, representing the original verdict, pre-judgment interest of $2,358.33 on the verdict, and counsel fees and interest under the offer to take judgment rule.
On appeal, appellant argues: 1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his request for a trial adjournment; and 2) the trial court improperly prohibited him from cross-examining plaintiff's sole witness.
We have considered appellant's arguments in light of the record and applicable law. We are satisfied that none of the arguments are of sufficient merit to warrant a discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). Accordingly, we affirm.
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