On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-5672-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman, Graves and Grall.
Plaintiff Nayna Patel (Patel) filed suit for repayment of a $125,000 loan she allegedly made to Om Prakash (Prakash), an individual doing business as Tuff Ones, and OM Overseas, L.L.C. (OM Overseas), a New Jersey Limited Liability Company doing business as Tuff Ones. In an answer and counterclaim, defendants admitted receiving a check from Patel for $125,000, but defendants claimed the money was a partial payment for promotional items that Patel had ordered. OM Overseas also asserted a breach of contract counterclaim for damages. After a four-day trial, a jury rendered a verdict in favor of plaintiff and awarded her the sum of $173,499.92. The jury also determined that no money was due to OM Overseas on its counterclaim. Defendants appeal from an order for judgment entered on October 30, 2007, and an earlier order denying their motion for summary judgment. We affirm.
Patel is a licensed real estate broker and a licensed mortgage broker in the State of New Jersey. She owns and operates two companies in Edison, New Jersey: Richa Realty, Inc., and Richa Mortgage Co. Prakash is the principal of defendant OM Overseas. OM Overseas is a manufacturer and importer of apparel and gift items, primarily from India and China. OM Overseas uses the brand name "Tuff Ones" on many of its products.
The parties met sometime in 2000 and became friends. In February or March 2003, Patel ordered 200 "men's down jackets" embossed with the Richa Realty logo as promotional items for her realty business. Patel paid for the jackets with a check from Richa Realty's business account made payable to OM Overseas LLC in the amount of $5000.
About a year later, Prakash told Patel he "needed money" and she agreed to loan him $20,000. On March 25, 2004, Patel gave Prakash a personal check in the amount of $20,000. Patel wrote "Loan to OP" on the front of the check and made the check payable to Tuff Ones. With regard to that transaction, Patel testified as follows:
Q: Why is it your personal account rather than your business account?
A: Because it was a favor for me. It wasn't business relation. It was a favor to him. As a friend to friend I was giving him.
Q: And why is the check made out to Tuff Ones?
A: Because he told me that Om Prakash doing business as Tuff Ones. He asked me to write the check in Tuff Ones name.
Q: And did you write -- is there a memo line on that check... you're looking at?
A: It's a loan to OP, again, O stands for Om, P stands for Prakash. I mention it's a memo loan to OP.
Q: And how long was that loan for?
A: This particular loan he asked for two weeks.
Patel also testified that Prakash repaid the loan with interest by transferring the sum of $20,222 into her personal account on April 8, 2004.
With regard to the check for $125,000 that Patel gave to Prakash on September 23, 2004, Patel testified that Prakash came to her office with his wife, Bonu, and their son, and he explained to Patel that he needed money because a customer had given him a check for $200,000 that bounced. Patel testified she told Prakash she did not "have that kind of money," but Prakash was desperate, so she agreed she would try to help him. Patel also testified that one of her agents, who was present at the office, overheard her conversation with Prakash:
Q: Okay. So, now, was anyone else present in your office?
A: At that time, yes... one of my agents she was in my office.
Q: And is she related to you?
Q: Okay. And where is her office?
A: Her office is outside mine.
A: It's the same office. We have office in the basement.... One side I'm sitting here then we have open floors like we have six tables ...