On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Salem County, Docket Nos. DC-000410-07 and DC-000457-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted: January 18, 2011
Before Judges Grall and C.L. Miniman.
Defendants Floyd A. Booker (Floyd) and Deborah Booker (Deborah) appeal from a judgment entered on November 9, 2007, in favor of plaintiff Allegheny/AA Bail Bonds, Inc., Attorney in Fact for Allegheny Casualty Company (AA), in the amount of $6684.39. Floyd, Deborah, and defendant Sandra Wright appeal from another judgment entered on November 9, 2007, in favor of plaintiff Allegheny/Ace Bail Bonds, Inc., Attorney in Fact for Allegheny Casualty Company (Ace), in the amount of $5538.63. Defendant Shawn Wright (Shawn) appeals from two judgments entered on March 6, 2008, one in favor of AA in the amount of $6684.39, and one in favor of Ace in the amount of $5538.63.
Defendants collectively raise two issues on appeal: (1) a claim that the trial judge disregarded Shawn's claim that plaintiffs entered into an oral agreement waiving their entitlement to the premiums on the bail bonds issued for Shawn's release from jail and (2) a claim that plaintiffs violated their rights under the Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C.A. §§ 1601-1667f (TILA), 12 C.F.R. § 226 (Regulation Z), and N.J.S.A. 12A:2-104 (Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) § 2-104). We have consolidated the appeals in both cases for purposes of this opinion. Finding no merit in defendants' contentions, we now affirm in all respects.
Shawn was incarcerated in federal prison at the time he filed his appellate briefs. Defendants are family members: Deborah and Sandra are Shawn's sisters, and Floyd is Deborah's husband. Shawn used plaintiffs' services on at least three occasions--November 7 and December 12, 2003, and April 21, 2004-- following his arrests. The present dispute concerns unpaid premiums related to bail bond services provided in November 2003 and April 2004.
Upon Shawn's first arrest, bail was set at $115,000. Shawn called Lenny Corbin, plaintiffs' agent, by telephone from jail on November 7, 2003. He informed Corbin that he "could not come up with the needed 10% to have a bond posted." He admitted that Corbin "explained that if [he] were to miss a payment [on the $10,000 bail-bond premiums at the rate of $100 per month each], or miss a schedule[d] court date, he could withdraw his bond and have [him] rearrested." Shawn "was familiar with the procedure" so he agreed.
Sandra and Deborah both admitted receiving a call from Shawn that day asking them to co-sign a bond for his release. According to Deborah, Shawn "stated that he would make the monthly payments while waiting to go to court" so she agreed. Sandra, Deborah, and Floyd met with Corbin; Shawn's sisters admitted that they and Floyd co-signed the Ace bond. Sandra and Deborah agreed that Corbin explained that the bond would be withdrawn if Shawn failed to make court appearances; according to Sandra, Corbin did not "state that [she] had to pay after Shawn went to jail and . . . received his bond back."
According to Deborah, Shawn's fianceee brought her money that day to make the initial bond payment of $5000 toward the $10,000 premium. Floyd, Deborah, and Sandra executed co-signer information Forms and promissory notes agreeing to make $100 monthly payments toward the balance of $5000. The co-signer information forms expressly stated that "[t]he premium is not refundable." The promissory notes contained the following language: "The borrower waives demand, presentment for payment, protest and notice. In the event of any default, the borrower will be responsible for any costs of collection [on] this note, including court costs and attorney fees." Twelve monthly payments were made on the premium, leaving an outstanding balance of $3800.
After Shawn's April 2004 arrest, bail was set at $100,000. He again telephoned Corbin regarding a bail bond. Shawn "explained also that the Feds/DEA might adopt [his] case and . . . void the bond." Shawn "made arrangements to give [his] sister $5000 so she could co-sign another bond for [him]."
Two days later, Shawn called Deborah from jail, asking her to co-sign the third bond. She agreed and subsequently met Shawn's fianceee to obtain the $5000. Thereafter, she met Corbin and made the initial payment toward the AA bond premium of $10,000. Co-Signer Information forms executed by Floyd and Deborah stated that "[t]he premium is not refundable." The bail bond application and indemnity agreement were signed "Shawn Wright." Promissory notes executed by Floyd and Deborah, which contained the same language as those from November 2003, reflected an agreement to make $100 monthly payments toward the balance due.
Shawn admitted that Deborah, Sandra, and Floyd had previously co-signed for the two bail bonds from November and December 2003. Based on "past dealings," Shawn asserted that he had given Corbin $20,000 in business. He also admitted that Corbin went to Deborah's home in April 2004 to obtain payment on the third bond premium and subsequently placed a bond at the Salem County Correctional Facility (SCCF) on Shawn's behalf.
Shawn's bail was revoked a few days later; he was sent to Cumberland County Jail (CCJ) and was told that the DEA was going to prosecute him under federal law. Because Shawn had not forfeited his bail by misconduct, he contacted Corbin and asked for the return of the $5000 initial premium payment; Corbin refused this ...