June 14, 2010
ISISTYKURA HAYLETT, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
ELIAS BALADI, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Bergen County, Docket No. DC-002154-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 8, 2010
Before Judges Rodríguez and Reisner.
Defendant Elias Baladi appeals from the March 25, 2009 judgment in the amount of $3,000 in favor of plaintiff Isistykura Haylett, an administrative secretary for Cousins Auto Service Center (Cousins Auto) in Paterson. We affirm.
The facts are simple. Cousins took possession of a 2001 Chrysler Sebring, which was left at its shop for repairs. The owner of the 2001 Sebring, Miriam Perez, never paid for the repairs nor asked for the return of the vehicle. Thus, the 2001 Sebring was abandoned. On June 16, 2008, Haylett sold Baladi the 2001 Sebring conditioned on Perez not showing up to redeem it. She also sold Baladi a 1997 Sebring. Baladi agreed to pay $500 for each vehicle.
Five days after the sale, Haylett returned to Baladi's place of business and demanded return of the 2001 Sebring because she did not have legal title to it. Baladi offered to return the vehicle upon reimbursement of his $500. However, Haylett claims that Baladi never paid for the 2001 Sebring.
Haylett sued in the Special Civil Part for $5,000, alleging that to be the value of the 2001 Sebring. Baladi contested the claim alleging that the market value of the 2001 Sebring was only $500 and that Haylett lacked standing to sue for this debt because she was neither the owner of the vehicle nor a Cousins Auto corporate officer.
At trial, Baladi presented a copy of a $500 check as proof of payment for the 2001 Sebring. However, the check makes reference to a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse. Despite this notation, Baladi claims that the check was for the 2001 Sebring.
In a March 25, 2009 oral opinion, Judge Liliana DeAvilaSilebi found that Baladi took possession of the 2001 Sebring, agreed to pay for it, but never did. She also found, after consulting the Kelley Blue Book, that the value of the car was $3,000. The judge rejected the $500 check presented by Baladi as proof of payment for the 2001 Sebring.
On appeal, Baladi argues that Haylett had no standing to sue in her own name because she was representing an auto body shop that she did not own and that she could not sell the car because she did not have the title. We reject this argument.
We note that the check Baladi claims was the payment for the 2001 Sebring is written out to Haylett. Therefore, it is clear that Baladi dealt with her. He has possession of the car and has not paid for it. It would be a windfall to him if he is allowed to keep the vehicle without paying fair market value. Whatever arrangement Haylett had with the shop owner to collect payments is between her and the owner.
Baladi also contends that Haylett "had no ownership, title or proprietary interest in the subject automobile and therefore lacked standing to commence the civil action for loss of property."
According to Baladi's own testimony, he had no problem paying for the 2001 Sebring before he got the title. Therefore, the lack of title was not an impediment to him. He accepted it that way. Baladi also contends that the judge "interfered in an open market agreement between parties and denied defendant the benefit of his negotiated transaction." We disagree.
The judge decided that any contract was breached by Baladi's nonpayment. A return of the 2001 Sebring, after Baladi had used it for several months, would not be fair. Therefore, on a quantum meruit basis, the judge awarded $3,000 as a fair market value of the 2001 Sebring at the time it came into Baladi's possession. We perceive no error in this approach.
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