On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-4437-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Axelrad, Lihotz and J. N. Harris.
Plaintiff Michael Simon, M.D.,*fn1 a former employee of defendant Associates in Cardiology and Internal Medicine, P.A., (Associates), a professional medical group owned by defendants Vibhay Bhatnagar, M.D.; Raavi Patel, M.D.; and Shauchert Chaudhery, M.D. (collectively defendants), initiated this action alleging a breach of the terms of a settlement agreement (the Agreement) entered into in anticipation of his resignation from Associates. Plaintiff sought payment for his final week's salary, accumulated vacation time, and a share of collected accounts receivable.
At the conclusion of the bench trial, the trial judge awarded plaintiff damages on his claims for unpaid salary and vacation time, but denied the claims for payment of accounts receivable. We affirm.
These facts are taken from the trial record. Plaintiff is a licensed physician in the State of New Jersey. At all times pertinent to this matter, Associates was a professional corporation engaged in the practice of medicine in Sayreville.*fn2
Plaintiff joined Associates on May 20, 2002. The terms of employment were oral, as the parties did not execute a written employment agreement. Plaintiff submitted his resignation of employment on July 27, 2007.
In anticipation of his departure, plaintiff presented an Agreement and Stipulation of Settlement to defendants. When defendants failed to pay the anticipated remuneration designated in the Agreement, plaintiff initiated this action.
Plaintiff's complaint alleged claims for breach of the Agreement and unjust enrichment.*fn3 In addition to his salary and unpaid vacation time, plaintiff sought his share of Associates' receivables. Defendants filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting plaintiff's compensation, in keeping with all past practices, "consisted of a salary and a bonus, and at no time was his compensation calculated based on accounts receivable generated by his efforts or the efforts of any other employee of the practice." Defendants admitted they had not released any sums attributable to Associates' receivables and declined to provide an accounting to plaintiff.
Prior to trial, plaintiff learned Dr. Patel pled guilty to federal criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the direction of an annual salary from Associates to his wife, who performed no services for Associates, which was designed to establish her eligibility for Social Security benefits. Additionally, the other defendants' wives received similar payments. Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to add a fraud count. The motion judge denied the request because it was made beyond the discovery end date and trial was imminent. Additionally, he found plaintiff's proofs were insufficient to sustain the cause of action.
During the two-day trial, plaintiff and Dr. Bhatnagar testified and the parties introduced various documents. Judge Edward J. Ryan issued a written opinion finding defendants breached the Agreement by failing to pay plaintiff his last week of salary and four weeks of accumulated vacation, which totaled $14,423.08. The trial judge rejected plaintiff's claimed entitlement to a percentage of accounts receivable and dismissed his claim for unjust enrichment.
On May 11, 2010, a final judgment awarding plaintiff $14,423.08 was entered and defendants' counterclaim was dismissed. This appeal ensued.
Plaintiff argues the (1) motion judge abused his discretion in denying plaintiff's request to amend the complaint to add a fraud count; (2) the trial judge erroneously dismissed plaintiff's claim for breach of fiduciary duty; and (3) the trial judge erred by determining plaintiff failed to ...