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Robert J. Triffin v. Capital One

July 20, 2011


On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Special Civil Part, Docket No. DC-1222-09.

Per curiam.


Argued November 16, 2010

Before Judges Carchman and Waugh.

Plaintiff Robert J. Triffin appeals the dismissal with prejudice of his complaint against Capital One, N.A. (Capital One). For the reasons that follow, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.


We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.

This appeal stems from a pattern of activity in which Triffin has engaged for nearly a decade, which we describe in some detail to put the present appeal in context. Triffin "is in the business of purchasing dishonored checks and taking assignments from the sellers by which he seeks to recover as holder in due course from banks and others in the collection process." Triffin v. Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 394 N.J. Super. 237, 241 (App. Div. 2007) (ADP). Since 2004, Triffin has filed more than 4000 lawsuits to recover the value of such checks. Id. at 242.

In ADP, Triffin demanded payment on numerous dishonored checks. Id. at 242. ADP refused, and Triffin sued to recover the value of the checks. Attached to the complaints were copies of assignment agreements corresponding to each dishonored check, which identified Triffin as the buyer. Each agreement also named a specific check cashing facility as the seller, and contained a certification from the seller's representative stating their authority to enter the agreement. Id. at 242-43.

During discovery, ADP determined that the assignment agreements had not been manually signed by sellers' representatives. Id. at 244. Triffin conceded that the agreements were completed after the checks had been delivered to him. He further conceded that he had scanned the signatures of various sellers' representatives into his computer and then copied them onto the assignment forms. Finally, Triffin conceded that he had created the assignment agreements for the checks and that the sellers had never agreed to or signed them. ADP subsequently filed a counterclaim alleging common-law fraud, RICO*fn1 violations, and negligence. Id. at 244-45.

Following an eight-day jury trial, Triffin was held liable for common-law fraud and ADP was awarded compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 245. The trial judge substantially reduced the damages awarded to ADP. Both parties appealed. We held that the trial record clearly supported the conclusion that Triffin made a material misrepresentation regarding the assignment agreements, but nonetheless concluded that ADP's judgment for fraud could not stand because ADP could not have reasonably relied on the misrepresentation. Id. at 247-49. Although we reversed the judgment in ADP's favor, we noted the lack of redress for Triffin's wrongful conduct and recognized the trial court's "inherent power to sanction a fraud on the court." Id. at 250-53. Consequently, we remanded for further proceedings to determine whether Triffin's conduct constituted fraud upon the court warranting sanctions. Id. at 253.

On remand, Judge Donald S. Goldman determined that Triffin had committed a fraud upon the court and entered an order awarding ADP's counsel fees and costs, which we affirmed on appeal. Triffin v. Automatic Data Processing, Inc., 411 N.J. Super. 292, 301-03, 315 (App. Div. 2010) (ADP II). Additionally:

After determining ADP's attorney's fee award, Judge Goldman went on to note that a modest financial penalty is unlikely to deter future misconduct on Triffin's part. As such, the judge's order required Triffin to provide a certification, under oath, to indicate whether or not he possesses a document with original signatures whenever he submits a document to a trial court either as a pleading, as an attachment to a motion, or seeks to mark an exhibit for identification or in evidence at trial. The opposing party or the court, sua sponte, could then seek to suppress a pleading or other filing that does not comply with this order. [Id. at 303-04 (internal quotation marks omitted).]

The injunction, which was in effect from September 1, 2008 until August 31, 2009, set forth three possible certifications, one of which Triffin was required to submit depending on whether he sought to file a document with an original signature, a copy of an original signature, or both. The order provided for enforcement by Judge Goldman or any court in which a violation of the injunction occurred. On appeal, Triffin also claimed that Judge Goldman abused his discretion in entering the injunction. Although we affirmed in ADP II, we did not address the injunction specifically.

We now turn to the facts concerning the present action. On January 13, 2009, Triffin filed a complaint against Capital One in the Special Civil Part. He alleged that he was a holder in due course of a dishonored check in the amount of $75.81, which had been assigned to him by Sun Ae Corporation (Sun Ae)*fn2 on December 19, 2008. An assignment agreement ...

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