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Intermodal Management System, LLC v. Worldwide Express

November 2, 2009

INTERMODAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEM, LLC, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WORLDWIDE EXPRESS, INC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. DC-7076-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued October 19, 2009

Before Judges Lisa and Baxter.

This appeal arises out of a commercial dispute that was resolved after a bench trial in the Special Civil Part. Intermodal Management System, LLC (Intermodal) shipped two truckloads of cargo from Kentucky to California for Worldwide Express, Inc. (Worldwide). The contractual arrangements for this service were not set forth in a formal contract, but were the subject of price quotes set forth in various documents. The dispute boiled down to whether the quoted price was on a "per job" or "per truckload" basis. Worldwide contended that the price quoted by Intermodal, $3829.40, was for the entire job, not for each truckload. Intermodal took the opposite view and billed for two truckloads, each at the quoted price of $3829.40. Worldwide paid only $3829.40, not twice that amount. Intermodal sued Worldwide for the remaining $3829.40 it claimed was due. It also sought counsel fees, costs, and prejudgment interest. It is undisputed that the contractual arrangements provided for recovery of these items in the event litigation became necessary for collection of amounts due.

After a bench trial, the judge agreed with Intermodal's interpretation of the contractual arrangements and awarded it judgment for the full principal amount requested, $3829.40, plus prejudgment interest at the contractual rate of two percent per month and attorney's fees. Costs were taxed by the court in the amount of $57.

Neither party appeals from the judgment on the substantive issue of the contractual obligation. Intermodal appeals from the $1300 counsel fee award, contending it was too low and constituted a mistaken exercise of discretion. Intermodal also appeals from the amount of prejudgment interest awarded, contending the judge made a mathematical error. We reject these arguments and affirm.

Intermodal's complaint was filed on or after March 20, 2008.*fn1 Worldwide filed its answer, dated April 28, 2008. No depositions were conducted, and discovery was limited to an exchange of documents. The case was tried on June 30, 2008. The trial transcript reveals that the trial began at 10:11 a.m. and concluded at 12:30 p.m. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge announced her decision in favor of Intermodal. Intermodal's counsel then requested that counsel fees and costs be added. This colloquy then ensued:

[INTERMODAL'S COUNSEL]: So we're also entitled to receive our attorneys' fees and costs in this matter. We can either just agree right now on a number for a reasonable amount of time that I had to spend. Obviously, we've been here today, we've had some time in prep, we've drafted the complaint and had to serve it and do all those kinds of things. We can just pick some round number, or I can submit a certificate of service, as Your Honor --

THE COURT: Can you agree? How about you take a second to see if you can agree?

[INTERMODAL'S COUNSEL]: Why don't we see if we can agree?

(Counsel confer)

[WORLDWIDE'S COUNSEL]: Your Honor, I'm going to have to --

THE COURT: Let him submit a certification? ...


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