September 17, 2010
ROBERT SACCOMANNO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Bergen County, Docket No. C-73-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued December 1, 2009
Remanded April 7, 2010
Resubmitted May 11, 2010
Before Judges Carchman, Lihotz and Ashrafi.
In this employment dispute, plaintiff appealed from the Chancery Division's granting of summary judgment to defendant on July 2, 2008, dismissing all six counts of plaintiff's complaint. We previously issued a decision affirming the order for summary judgment as to counts one and six of plaintiff's complaint and remanding the matter to the trial judge for further explanation of reasons for dismissing counts two through five. Saccomanno v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., Docket No. A-0513-08T3 (App. Div. Apr. 7, 2010). For purposes of this opinion, we adopt the statement of facts and procedural history contained in our prior decision.
On remand, the Chancery Division issued a written decision dated May 6, 2010. The court stated that it met with counsel, at which time plaintiff's attorney agreed that plaintiff would not pursue counts two and three of his complaint alleging age discrimination. As to those counts, therefore, we view plaintiff's appeal as having been abandoned.
With respect to count four, the Chancery Division concluded that plaintiff could not recover under "a quasi-contract theory such as unjust enrichment" because the relevant provision of the parties' employment contract had been held to be valid and enforceable. That is, since the parties' invention assignment agreement has been enforced, plaintiff may not pursue a claim for damages outside the contract, such as by alleging that defendant has been unjustly enriched. We agree with the trial court's conclusion. See Moser v. Milner Hotels, Inc., 6 N.J. 278, 280 (1951); Kas Oriental Rugs, Inc. v. Ellman, 394 N.J. Super. 278, 286 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 192 N.J. 74 (2007); see also Suburban Transfer Service, Inc. v. Beech Holdings, Inc., 716 F.2d 220, 226-27 (3d Cir. 1983) (Under New Jersey law, constructive or quasi-contractual remedy "to prevent unjust enrichment or unconscionable benefit . . . will not be imposed . . . if an express contract exists concerning the identical subject matter.").
With respect to count five, which alleges breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, see, e.g., Sons of Thunder, Inc. v. Borden, Inc., 148 N.J. 396, 420 (1997); Onderdonk v. Presbyterian Homes of N.J., 85 N.J. 171, 182 (1981), plaintiff's complaint and briefs on appeal appear to allege such a breach for two reasons - (1) defendant failed to keep plaintiff informed of developments in the law of invention assignment agreements and to update plaintiff's original 1984 contract, and (2) defendant's internal investigation of plaintiff's claims did not comply with defendant's own Policy 104, entitled Integrity and Compliance Program, which plaintiff alleges is part of the parties' employment agreement.
Concerning the first allegation, we previously stated our agreement with the trial court that defendant had no legal duty to keep plaintiff informed and to update its invention assignment agreements for plaintiff's benefit. See Saccomanno, supra, slip op. at 15-16.
Concerning the second contention, plaintiff essentially alleges that defendant violated its internal policy because, in reviewing plaintiff's claim, defendant did not reach a conclusion that its invention assignment agreement was contrary to law and unenforceable. Since we have rejected plaintiff's claim that the agreement is unenforceable, defendant cannot be found to have breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by taking a legal position we have upheld. As the Chancery Division concluded, plaintiff's claim of breach of the implied covenant is entirely based on the enforceability of the invention assignment clause and does not allege any other manner in which defendant prevented plaintiff from enjoying the benefits of his employment contract. Therefore, summary judgment was appropriately granted dismissing count five of the complaint.
We now affirm in its entirety the trial court's July 2, 2008 order for summary judgment in favor of defendant and its August 15, 2008 order denying reconsideration.
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