July 29, 2009
NICOLE LOCORRIERE, PLAINTIFF,
GOOD TIMES TAVERN, INC., AND/OR GOOD TIMES TAVERN AND/OR GOOD TIMES BAR AND/OR GOOD TIMES TAVERN & SAD WILLIE'S STEAK HOUSE AND/OR MANA RESTAURANT; GALLAWAY INC.; DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND GOOD TIMES TAVERN, INC., GOOD TIMES TAVERN AND GALLAWAY INC., DEFENDANTS-THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
EMERSON MONROY JACINTO AND KIMBERLY C. MATOS, THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket Nos. L-8298-04 and L-574-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued June 2, 2009
Before Judges Graves and Grall.
This personal injury action arises from an automobile accident on March 14, 2004. Plaintiff Nicole Locorriere was a passenger in a vehicle struck by an uninsured defendant, Emerson Monroy-Jacinto, who was operating his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Plaintiff alleged that Monroy-Jacinto was served alcoholic beverages while he was visibly intoxicated at defendant Good Times Tavern.
On December 6, 2007, the case was submitted to mandatory non-binding arbitration which resulted in an award in the amount of $350,000. The arbitrator found that Monroy-Jacinto was ninety percent liable and Good Times Tavern was ten percent liable. Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award. However, the motion was denied because the trial de novo demand filed by Good Times Tavern was received by the court on December 21, 2007, and the court ruled there had been substantial compliance with the service requirement of Rule 4:21A-6(b)(1). On September 10, 2008, a jury returned a verdict in the amount of $75,000, with a finding that defendant Monroy- Jacinto was 100 percent liable and defendant Good Times Tavern was not liable.
On appeal, plaintiff's only argument is that the trial court erred in denying her motion to confirm the arbitration award. But there is no dispute that defense counsel advised plaintiff's attorney during a conversation on December 13, 2007, that Good Times Tavern was going to demand a trial de novo; after the trial de novo request was received by the court, trial notices were sent to the parties on December 27, 2007, scheduling the case for trial on March 10, 2008; defense counsel took steps to file and serve the de novo request in a timely fashion; plaintiff's counsel received a filed copy of the de novo demand on January 10, 2008, and there has been no showing that plaintiff did not have time to prepare for trial, or that she was otherwise prejudiced, because the de novo demand was served a few days late.
Given these circumstances, we conclude the matter was correctly decided and plaintiff's argument is clearly without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E); see Nascimento v. King, 381 N.J. Super. 593, 597-98 (App. Div. 2005); Fleet Associates v. S.D. Catalano, 361 N.J. Super. 127, 132-33 (App. Div. 2003); Corcoran v. St. Peter's Med. Ctr., 339 N.J. Super. 337, 343-44 (App. Div. 2001).
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