Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Karim Policastro v. Jackson Auto Body/Complete Collision Centers

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


December 8, 2010

KARIM POLICASTRO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT/ CROSS-RESPONDENT,
v.
JACKSON AUTO BODY/COMPLETE COLLISION CENTERS, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT/ CROSS-APPELLANT, AND CHRISTOPHER ANGILONE,*FN1 MID-ATLANTIC APPRAISAL COMPANY,
DANIEL ROSARIO,*FN2 DEFENDANTS, AND AUTOONE INSURANCE COMPANY,*FN3 DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT.
JACKSON AUTO BODY/COMPLETE COLLISION CENTERS, THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFF,
v.
AUTOONE INSURANCE COMPANY, MID-ATLANTIC APPRAISAL COMPANY,*FN4 AND MERCEDES BENZ FINANCIAL,*FN5 THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Docket No. L-692-06.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued September 22, 2010

Before Judges Cuff, Sapp-Peterson and Simonelli.

Plaintiff, Karim Policastro, appeals from that portion of the August 5, 2009 order entered, following a bench trial, dismissing her claim for treble damages under the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 to -20, and common law claims against defendants Jackson Auto Body/Complete Collision Centers (Jackson Auto) and AutoOne Insurance Company (AutoOne), reducing the amount of counsel fees awarded and awarding damages in the amount of $31,955.42 against plaintiff in connection with Jackson Auto's counterclaim. Jackson Auto cross-appeals the court's determination that it violated the CFA, the award of counsel fees to plaintiff, and the amount of damages awarded to it against plaintiff relating to its breach of contract counterclaim. We affirm.

Prior to trial, the court entered orders granting summary judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims against Daniel Rosario (Rosario) and Mid-Atlantic Appraisal Company (Mid-Atlantic), as well as the third-party claims against Mercedes Benz. On November 18, 2008, a four-day bench trial, which was conducted on non-consecutive days, proceeded against the remaining defendants, Jackson Auto and AutoOne.

Plaintiff's complaint asserts numerous violations of the CFA, including: (1) failing to properly notify her of the work that was being performed on her vehicle, N.J.A.C. 13:21-21(a); (2) failing to provide her with a written estimate of the total cost of these repairs, ibid.; and (3) commencing additional repairs without her authorization, N.J.A.C. 13:21-21.11(b). The evidence presented at the bench trial disclosed that in 2003, plaintiff leased a 2001 Mercedes Benz CL 55 AMG from Ray Catena Motor Car Corporation. Under the lease agreement, plaintiff agreed to make monthly payments of $1048 per month for forty-eight months commencing August 22, 2003. In accordance with Paragraph 17 of the lease, plaintiff was financially responsible for all damages to the Mercedes during the term of the lease and was also required to maintain comprehensive collision coverage equal to $80,019.86, the cash value of the Mercedes listed in the lease. Paragraph 16 specifically provided:

16. Insurance

PHYSICAL DAMAGE OR LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR BODILY INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE CAUSED TO OTHERS IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS LEASE.

During the term of this Lease and until I return the vehicle, I will maintain insurance acceptable to you. The insurance will provide the following minimum coverages:

a. comprehensive fire and theft coverage and collision coverage, each for the actual cash value of the vehicle and with a maximum deductible of $2,500[.]

Plaintiff secured collision coverage from AutoOne, but only in the amount of $40,000. Additionally, the policy issued listed plaintiff as the only authorized driver of the Mercedes.

On August 11, 2005, plaintiff's Mercedes was involved in an accident while the vehicle was being operated, with plaintiff's permission, by her friend, Christopher Angilone (Angilone). According to the police report, Angilone told police that he "took the payments over [four] months ago and sends checks directly to the dealer."

The day following the accident, Angilone signed an authorization permitting Jackson Auto to perform repairs. However, before commencing any repairs, a second authorization was faxed to plaintiff on August 19, requesting that she personally sign the authorization and fax it back to Jackson Auto in order to confirm that the work was requested and authorized. Neither the authorization signed by Angilone nor the authorization signed by plaintiff contained an estimate of the cost of repairs. The authorization did contain language requiring plaintiff to relinquish all insurance checks issued in connection with the repairs to Jackson Auto, as well as an additional provision advising plaintiff that in the event of non-payment for repairs made, Jackson Auto would impose an express mechanic's lien on the vehicle to secure payment.

Plaintiff's insurer, AutoOne, retained Mid-Atlantic to investigate plaintiff's claim and to generate an appraisal of the damages. On September 6, Mid-Atlantic subcontracted with Rosario to perform the actual inspection and appraisal. On September 7, Rosario completed the inspection and appraisal, and on that same day, faxed the written repair estimate of $31,955.42 to Mid-Atlantic. According to Rosario, Mid-Atlantic then sent the estimate electronically to AutoOne. Jackson Auto faxed the written estimate to plaintiff on September 7. At the time Rosario issued his repair estimate, he was aware of the potential for additional damage. As such, he negotiated with Jackson Auto to tear down the vehicle to determine whether there was any hidden damage.

Kevin Cody (Cody), Jackson Auto's manager at the time, testified the teardown was completed by September 21, and significant hidden damage was revealed. Jackson Auto's records indicated that Rosario conducted a re-inspection on September 21 and orally authorized Jackson Auto to continue with the repairs. Based upon that authorization, Jackson Auto continued to perform the repair work until September 29, when AutoOne's adjuster, Dana Francisco (Francisco) contacted them and advised that due to potential coverage issues, they may wish to halt repairs until further notice. Jackson Auto halted repairs during AutoOne's investigation. This resulted in a twenty-two-day storage fee of over $3000. However, repairs on the vehicle resumed after AutoOne completed their investigation on October 21, and on that same date, AutoOne "[i]ssued [a] check to [plaintiff] and Mercedes Benz Credit for $30,955.42." According to plaintiff, as soon as she received the check, she contacted Jackson Auto and was told to hold the check until the repairs were completed. She deposited the check into her personal checking account.

Contrary to Jackson Auto's records, Rosario testified that he never physically re-inspected the vehicle. He indicated that he may have been at Jackson Auto on another claim on September 21 and, at the same time, inquired about plaintiff's Mercedes, but his December 29 supplemental report estimating an additional $23,849.90 was based upon his re-inspection on that same date. The December 29 re-inspection consisted solely of his review of Jackson Auto's photos of the old parts, invoices, and other documents. He never physically re-inspected the vehicle.

Rosario did not provide a copy of the supplemental estimate to plaintiff. Nor is there any record that AutoOne or Jackson Auto provided plaintiff with a written copy of the additional estimate. However, Cody testified, "without question," plaintiff knew that the repair cost was going to increase based upon the supplemental estimate. Although he had no recollection of providing plaintiff with a written copy of the supplemental estimate, he indicated that his normal practice would have been to have a "verbal conversation" with the customer. Plaintiff denied receiving a written copy of the supplemental estimate or engaging in any conversation with anyone relative to the additional repairs until after they were completed in late December 2005.

By January 3, 2006, Jackson Auto completed all repairs on plaintiff's car. However, Rosario contends the repairs were finished as early as December 29, 2005. Francisco testified that January 3, 2006 was the first time she informed Jackson Auto's manager about the cap on plaintiff's policy. She indicated that it was not customary for the insurance company to divulge such information. On January 11, 2006, she received the supplemental estimate from Mid-Atlantic but could not recall whether she faxed a copy to plaintiff. She indicated that AutoOne never authorized Jackson Auto to perform supplemental repairs. She stated the supplemental amount was $24,367.71 plus $3498 in charges for twenty-two days of storage, bringing the final total for repairs to $55,323.13. AutoOne issued plaintiff a check for the remaining $9,044.58 under her policy. Plaintiff testified that she never deposited the second check and still has the expired check.

Plaintiff testified that once Jackson Auto notified her that the repairs were finished, she went to the shop with her father. She met with Vincent Evangelista (Evangelista), Jackson Auto's owner, who informed her that if she failed to pay the full amount due, the shop would hold her car. Plaintiff testified that had she known the repairs would cost $56,000, she would have pushed for AutoOne to total the car or she would have arranged to transfer the vehicle to another mechanic. She testified that she told Jackson Auto her insurance coverage was capped at $40,000, a fact Jackson Auto disputed. She acknowledged that she never hired an estimator to determine whether Jackson Auto had inflated the cost of repairing the vehicle.

Evangelista testified that if he had known about plaintiff's cap on collision coverage, he would have stopped the repairs before the cost exceeded her coverage. He explained that because Jackson Auto was never advised of the $40,000 cap on plaintiff's coverage, it completed the repairs, believing plaintiff carried sufficient coverage for the cost of repairs.

He indicated that plaintiff never attempted to pay Jackson Auto for any portion of the repairs, despite receiving insurance checks from AutoOne for the maximum amount of coverage under her policy. Accordingly, he deemed plaintiff's non-payment a breach of her signed authorization to repair the vehicle and imposed a mechanic's lien.

Plaintiff testified that she attempted to pay Jackson Auto the $40,000, but Cody refused to accept less than full payment. She indicated that her attorney deposited the full amount in an escrow account. Ultimately, Jackson Auto released the vehicle to the leaseholder, Mercedes Benz, but never received payment for any of the repairs it performed.

Plaintiff testified that while Jackson Auto was holding her vehicle, Mercedes Benz extended her lease month-to-month. At the time of the accident, her policy's premium was $2903, but after AutoOne renewed her policy, they added Angilone as a driver and increased her annual premium to $7419. According to plaintiff, she ceased making insurance payments because Jackson Auto had the vehicle and she could not afford to pay the increase.

The trial judge issued an oral opinion from the bench on February 19, 2009, finding that Jackson Auto violated the CFA but that plaintiff suffered no ascertainable loss. Accordingly, the judge dismissed plaintiff's claim for treble damages under the CFA but awarded counsel fees. The judge similarly dismissed all of plaintiff's common law claims against Jackson Auto and AutoOne, finding that plaintiff had not sustained her burden against defendants in connection with those claims. On Jackson Auto's breach of contract claim, the judge found:

[A]t least with respect to the work done and included in the estimate which was faxed to plaintiff on September 7, 2005, that . . . plaintiff was notified. By her own admission, she received a copy of that fax on that date. She was notified of the amount of the estimate. She had previously authorized in writing work to be done on the vehicle and, consistent with the commentary in Sci[b]ek [v. Longette, 339 N.J. Super. 72 (App. Div. 2001)], she obtained the benefit of her . . . bargain[,] and so far as the [c]court is concerned, as a practical matter and as a matter of fact authorized the work to be done and was -- and agreed upon the price. She didn't tell Jackson Auto Body to stop any work once she received the estimate. She admitted receiving it. Mr. Cody indicated he sent it over on that date.

It seems to the [c]court and the [c]court will, in accordance with the dicta in Sci[b]ek, award damages in favor of . . . plaintiff -- the [d]efendant Jackson Auto Body in the amount of the estimate which was faxed over to . . . plaintiff on September 7, 2005 for the reasons I've just explained.

. . . The [c]court is not awarding the entire amount in the counterclaim asserted by Jackson Auto Body because the [c]court is satisfied that . . . plaintiff was never informed of the second estimate that was prepared after the tear[]down work was done.

The first time -- the [c]court accepts the --she never authorized that work to be done, was never informed of it, and the [c]court accepts plaintiff's testimony that the first time that she found out about the amount of the second -- the component of the cost of repair was after the work was already done in January of 2006. So, the [c]court will not award -- will not enter a judgment in favor of Jackson Auto Body so far as . . . the cost of that second stage of repairs are concerned.

Thereafter, plaintiff's counsel submitted an affidavit of services requesting $95,775.28 in fees and costs. In a letter opinion dated July 2, 2009, the judge found that the time plaintiff allotted for services was excessive and deducted 34.05 hours from that time, thereby reducing the counsel fee award to $82,057.50. The court reduced the award by an additional sixty percent to $32,823, based upon its determination that plaintiff was only partially successful in her defense of Jackson Auto's counterclaim. Including costs, the total counsel fee award approved by the court was $34,623.28.

On August 5, 2009, the court entered an order of judgment awarding plaintiff $34,623.28 in counsel fees and awarding Jackson Auto $31,955.42 on its breach of contract counterclaim. Finally, the court dismissed all of plaintiff's remaining claims against Jackson Auto as well as all of plaintiff's claims against AutoOne. The present appeal and cross-appeal followed.

Plaintiff raises the following points in her appeal:

POINT ONE [] DEFENDANT AUTO[]ONE[,] BY AUTHORIZING THE REPAIRS TO . . . PLAINTIFF'S VEHICLE DESPITE KNOWING THAT A SUPPLEMENTAL ESTIMATE WAS NECESSA[R]Y TO ASSESS [T]HE FULL VALUE [O]F THE VEHICLE'S DAMAGES[,] SUBJECTS THE INSURER TO A CLAIM FOR BREACH OF THE DUTY OF GOOD FAITH OWED TO ITS INSURED. AUTO[]ONE ALSO BREACHED THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BANKING AND INSURANCE REGULATIONS OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE CODE WHICH SUPPORTS A CONSUMER FRAUD VIOLATION.

POINT TWO

AUTO[]ONE IS LIABLE TO . . . PLAINTIFF UNDER PLAINTIFF'S COMMON LAW FRAUD AND EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL CLAIMS.

POINT THREE

THE ASCERTAINABLE LOSS THRESHOLD IS A LOW AND BROADLY DEFINED ELEMENT WHICH REQUIRES ONLY THAT THE DAMAGES BE CALCULATED WITHIN A REASONABLE CERTAINTY AND THAT THE DAMAGES NOT BE HYPOTHETICAL OR ILLUSORY. PLAINTIFF SUFFERED AN ASCERTAINABLE LOSS AS A RESULT OF THE CFA VIOLATIONS.

A) PART OF THE ASCERTAINABLE LOSS SUFFERED BY PLAINTIFF IS EQUAL TO THE DIFFERENCE IN THE AMOUNT OF THE LOWER INITIAL ESTIMATE PROVIDED TO PLAINTIFF AND THE FINAL AND HIGHER ESTIMATE WHICH WAS NOT PROVIDED.

B) THE LEASE PAYMENTS AND INSURANCE PREMIUM PAYMENTS MADE BY PLAINTIFF, AND THE MONEY SOUGHT BY MERCEDES/DCFS TRUST WHILE THE VEHICLE WAS WRONGFULLY HELD BY JACKSON AUTO BODY ARE SUFFICIENT AS EVIDENCE OF LOSS OF USE DAMAGES AND QUALIFY AS ASCERTAINABLE DAMAGES.

POINT FOUR

THE COMMON LAW CLAIMS OF PLAINTIFF SUPPORT DAMAGES AS TO JACKSON.

POINT [FIVE]

THE GARAGEKEEPER'S LIEN ASSERTED BY JACKSON AUTO BODY WAS NOT VALID DUE TO THE LACK OF CONSENT BY . . . PLAINTIFF FOR THE REPAIRS AND WAS AN IMPROPER LIEN AND DAMAGES ARE EXPRESSLY SUPPORTABLE UNDER [THE] GARAGEKEEPER'S LIEN ACT.

POINT SIX

THE ATTORNEY FEE AWARD TO PLAINTIFF WAS IMPROPERLY REDUCED BY THE TRIAL JUDGE BASED ON THE FINANCIAL RESULTS OBTAINED BY PLAINTIFF AND ALSO THE HOURS WERE REDUCED FROM PLAINTIFF'S FEE APPLICATION FOR NO LEGALLY SUPPORTABLE REASON. THIS REDUCTION WAS AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

In its cross-appeal, Jackson Auto raises the following points:*fn6

POINT VIII

THE RESPONDENT, JACKSON AUTO BODY, IS ENTITLED TO RECOVER $53,323.13 AGAINST . . . PLAINTIFF FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT.

POINT IX

IN THE ALTERNATIVE, RESPONDENT, JACKSON AUTO BODY, IS ENTITLED TO RECOVER AGAINST . . . PLAINT[I]FF FOR QUANTUM MERUIT DAMAGES.

POINT XII

THE PLAINTIFF DID NOT MEET THE TEST FOR THE CONSUMER FRAUD ACT TO APPLY IN THIS MATTER AND ATTORNEY FEES ARE NOT REQUIRED TO BE AWARDED.

We reject all of the points raised in the appeal and cross-appeal and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Foster in his February 19, 2009 oral opinion, and his July 2, 2009 written opinion regarding counsel fees.

I.

Our standard of review of the factual findings of a judge presiding over a bench trial is guided by the principle that we will defer to those findings as long as they are supported by "adequate, substantial, and credible evidence" in the record. Triffin v. Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 411 N.J. Super. 292, 305 (App. Div. 2010) (citing Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974)). This deference is informed by our recognition that the trial judge has had the opportunity to make first-hand credibility assessments of the witnesses and therefore has had the benefit of the "'feel of the case' that can never be realized by a review of the cold record." N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. L.L., 201 N.J. 210, 226 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting N.J. Div. of Youth & Family Servs. v. E.P., 196 N.J. 88, 104 (2008)). We "may not 'engage in an independent assessment of the evidence as if [we] were the court of first instance.'" In re Taylor, 158 N.J. 644, 656 (1999) (quoting State v. Locurto, 157 N.J. 463, 471 (1999)); see also Cannuscio v. Claridge Hotel & Casino, 319 N.J. Super. 342, 347 (App. Div. 1999). If the trial judge's factual findings are supported by sufficient credible evidence, this court "must accept" its findings. State v. Arthur, 184 N.J. 307, 320 (2005).

A.

The court's finding that Jackson Auto violated the CFA is supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. There is no dispute that Jackson Auto failed to provide plaintiff with the second written estimate as required by N.J.A.C. 13:21-21.11(b), which provides that "[a]n auto body repair facility shall not commence any additional work, including the ordering of additional parts, on a customer's motor vehicle that exceeds any estimate given . . . unless the facility obtains the authorization of the customer to proceed with the additional repair services." We reject Jackson Auto's argument that the first estimate they provided on September 7 satisfied their obligation under the CFA as to the supplemental repairs. To accept such an argument would foster deceptive practices by allowing automotive repair dealers to bind a consumer for additional repair costs, based upon an initial authorization, without notice to and authorization from the consumer to perform additional repairs. Here, the additional costs amounted to more than seventy percent of the initial estimate plaintiff authorized. Moreover, the second written estimate was not completed until January 3, 2006, months after the September 21 entry in Jackson Auto's records that Rosario appeared for the re-inspection and orally gave his approval for the repairs to continue, a fact that Rosario disputed during the trial. It is therefore apparent from the record that the additional repairs, which were deemed significant, were undertaken without written approval long before plaintiff or AutoOne were given written notice of the additional repair costs. Therefore, Judge Foster properly found that Jackson Auto violated the CFA.

Nor are we persuaded that notice of the repair costs to the insurer is sufficient notice to the customer pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:21-21.11(b). N.J.A.C. 13:21-21.11(b) establishes an independent obligation on the part of the auto repair dealer that is non-delegable.

B.

Notwithstanding the trial court's finding that Jackson Auto violated the CFA, it properly found that plaintiff sustained no ascertainable loss for which an award of damages was warranted. An ascertainable loss under the CFA arising out of a private action for breach of contract or misrepresentation is satisfied with "either out-of-pocket loss or a demonstration of loss in value[.]" Thiedemann v. Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC, 183 N.J. 234, 248 (2005). Plaintiff satisfies neither category of actual loss because her claimed loss consisted of costs that she was otherwise obligated to pay.

As the trial judge found, she was "required to maintain insurance on the vehicle at the maximum coverage" based upon the "the actual cash value of the vehicle" at the time she entered the lease agreement, and failed to do so. Likewise, she was obligated to continue to make lease payments during the term of the lease, irrespective of any damage to the vehicle, which she also failed to do. Additionally, she took no steps to terminate the lease once it expired, although by that time, the vehicle was being garaged by Jackson Auto under its mechanic's lien. Further, plaintiff failed to provide any competent evidence that the total amount Jackson Auto charged to complete the repairs was unreasonable or that the work was performed in an unworkmanlike manner.

C.

Although plaintiff failed to establish an ascertainable loss entitling her to treble damages under the CFA, this did not preclude an award of counsel fees. This is so because under the CFA, an award of treble damages is independent of an award of counsel fees. Cox v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 138 N.J. 2, 24 (1994). The fee-shifting provision under the CFA is triggered where a "plaintiff can prove that the defendant committed an unlawful practice, even if the victim cannot show any ascertainable loss and thus cannot recover treble damages." Ibid. (citing Performance Leasing Corp. v. Irwin Lincoln-Mercury, 262 N.J. Super. 23, 31-34 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 133 N.J. 443 (1993)). See Tanksley v. Cook, 360 N.J. Super. 63, 66 (App. Div. 2003); Scibek, supra, 339 N.J. Super. at 86.

The rationale underlying the award of counsel fees, even in the absence of finding an ascertainable loss, is based upon the remedial purpose of the CFA, to encourage the pursuit of consumer fraud actions "without experiencing financial hardship." Cox, supra, 138 N.J. at 24-25. Moreover, in the context of awarding counsel fees, no distinction is made between so-called "technical" violations and those viewed as "substantive" violations. Roberts v. Cowgill, 316 N.J. Super. 33, 45 (App. Div. 1998). All that is required is for a plaintiff to present a "bona fide claim of ascertainable loss [related to the CFA violation] that raises a genuine issue of fact requiring resolution by the factfinder[.]" Weinberg v. Sprint Corp., 173 N.J. 233, 253 (2002).

Plaintiff incurred repair costs in excess of her $40,000 coverage cap. She claimed that she was unaware of these additional costs. There was no written record that she authorized these additional repairs. She claimed the repairs were authorized by her insurer, AutoOne, without her approval. Plaintiff denied Jackson Auto's claim that she authorized all of the repairs. Plaintiff claimed further that Rosario contacted her after the teardown and told her there was no further damage to her vehicle. These are disputed issues of fact that required resolution by the factfinder. Consequently, plaintiff established a bona fide claim of ascertainable loss. Ibid. She was therefore entitled to an award of counsel fees, notwithstanding that she ultimately failed to prove an ascertainable loss. Ibid.

D.

Both plaintiff and Jackson Auto challenge the amount of counsel fees awarded. Plaintiff urges that the reduction in the counsel fee award she sought based upon the trial court's finding that she was "only partially successful in the defense of the counterclaim" constituted an abuse of judicial discretion. Jackson Auto argues that the amount of counsel fees awarded to plaintiff under the CFA was unreasonable, not properly calculated, and that public policy requires that the amount be substantially lowered. We disagree with all of these contentions.

The amount of counsel fees awarded to a prevailing party under the CFA is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court, "guided by those principles that run consistently through our caselaw when courts address the appropriate quantum of fees allowable pursuant to various fee-shifting statutes. Thus, along with other factors, courts must look at the level of success achieved in the litigation." Branigan v. Level on the Level, Inc., 326 N.J. Super. 24, 31 (App. Div. 1999) (citing Rendine v. Pantzer, 141 N.J. 292, 336 (1995); Szczepanski v. Newcomb Med. Center, 141 N.J. 346, 358-359 (1995)). We have applied this principle to the CFA and other fee-shifting statutes, "although expressed by our Supreme Court in cases arising under the Law Against Discrimination[.]" Ibid.

In reducing plaintiff's counsel fee award, the court found that "plaintiff had failed to meet her burden of proof in demonstrating a causally related ascertainable loss[,]" was only partially successful in defending against Jackson Auto's counterclaim, and in view of the results achieved, a sixty percent reduction in the lodestar counsel fee was appropriate. In addition to these considerations, the court also fashioned its award by consideration of the factors outlined in the Rules of Professional Conduct at RPC 1.5(a). We discern no basis from this record to interfere with the court's award.

II.

Turning to Jackson Auto's breach of contract claim, there is substantial credible evidence in the record to support Jackson Auto's claim. Triffin, supra, 411 N.J. Super. at 305. Plaintiff received the first written estimate on September 7 and authorized the initial repairs. There is no evidence in the record that this estimate was unreasonable or that the repairs were performed in an unworkmanlike manner. Because Judge Foster found that Jackson Auto never informed plaintiff of the additional repairs and that plaintiff never authorized the additional repairs, the court properly reduced its claimed damages. We therefore discern no basis to disturb the trial judge's findings and judgment in connection with this claim. Arthur, supra, 184 N.J. at 320.

III.

The remaining arguments asserted in plaintiff's appeal and Jackson Auto's cross-appeal are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

Affirmed.


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.