On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Bergen County, Docket No. DC-008251-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted September 7, 2010
Before Judges Payne and Messano.
Defendant, Tia Brantley, appeals from a judgment in the amount of $3,500 plus attorney's fees of $500 and costs of $57 entered against her and in favor of plaintiff, Don Cosa Images, following a bench trial in the Superior Court, Special Civil Part. Determining that the trial judge misconstrued the contract at issue in the matter and mistakenly denied defendant the right to present her defense and counterclaim, we reverse and remand the matter for a new trial.
We draw our recitation of the facts from the record and other materials submitted by defendant on appeal that she was precluded from introducing at trial as the result of the judge's determination not to hear her defense and counterclaim. That evidence reflects that, on June 21, 2007, defendant entered into a contract with Don Cosa Images for the purchase of a Microdot hair augmentation process involving the use of a nylon filament cap to which human hair had been affixed, which was anchored to the user's head by looping her natural hair into it. The cost was $3,500, which defendant financed through GE Care Credit.
The contract provided, in relevant part:
1. Description of The Doncosa*fn1 Images MicrodotTM Process ("MicrodotTM")
D. I . . . understand that after a period of time it will be necessary for the Donor Hair to be repaired. The frequency of the repair will depend upon the care given to the process by me. That frequency can average from . . . (5) to (8) months. I further understand that the human hair replacement will last up to 3 years with proper maintenance.
F. At the time of application of my Donor Hair, I have been advised to consult with the stylists as to the proper techniques and care which I will be required to follow. I understand that it is necessary to follow the instructions given in order to maintain the appearance of the process and to minimize the natural hair loss during shampooing, drying, brushing and styling.
G. I have been advised to visit DC [Doncosa] for maintenance every two (2) to six (6) weeks for adjustments due to natural hair growth and normal wear. Off & on must be done 4 times a year.
A. If the Donor Hair has been applied and if I am not fully satisfied with the application, I must notify DC prior to the expiration of fourteen (14) days after the application process (hereinafter fourteen  days after the application of the process is called the "fourteenth Day Date") so that DC can attempt to address the area of concern. If I have done so, and if I returned for an appointment within the fourteenth Date, and if I am still not satisfied by the fourteenth Day Date, and if I have not removed the Donor Hair prior to the fourteenth Day Date, then on or after the fourteenth Day Date, but on or before five (5) days after the fourteenth Day Date, DC shall attempt to re-cut, re-design or reposition the MicrodotTM process at no additional cost.
B. I FURTHER UNDERSTAND, HOWEVER, THAT IF I AM NOT SATISFIED WITH ANY ADJUSTMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN MADE, THERE SHALL BE NO FURTHER WARRANTY SUPPLIED BY DC.
Defendant received her hairpiece on June 30, 2007. On July 12, 2007, she returned for a wash and a set. On August 18, 2007, she had the application tightened. Thereafter, on August 25, 2007, she had surgery. Defendant did not return to Don Cosa until November 17, 2007. However, she states that she made appointments in the interim, one of which she cancelled and the remainder of which were cancelled by Don Cosa. On ...