On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Sussex County, Docket No. DC-003370-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall and C.L. Miniman.
Plaintiff Charles J. Raverta appeals the dismissal of his complaint against defendants Lake Mohawk Golf Club (the Club), the Board of Governors of Lake Mohawk Golf Club (the Board), Charles A. Roberts, Alfred Arena, Peter Ventricelli, William Steinhardt, James Apostolico, David Endahl, Terence Novak, and Phil Marcellus III (the individual defendants) pursuant to R. 4:6-2(e) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We now reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
In his amended complaint, which was filed in October 2009,*fn1
plaintiff asserted seven causes of action, including consumer fraud, conspiracy, breach of contract, prima facie tort, wrongful interference with contract, failure to care for collateral/directors' liability, and trover/conversion. Plaintiff sought compensatory damages, treble damages, punitive damages, rescission, attorneys' fees, lawful interest, and costs of suit. The allegations of each count follow.
In the First Count, plaintiff alleged that in September 1999 he purchased Participation Certificate A1137 for $7500 based on mail and newspaper advertisements and was told that said sum was redeemable for that amount when he was no longer a member of the Club. He also paid a nonrefundable initiation fee of $7500. He did not receive the participation certificate until February 19, 2000. At no time until he received the Club's By-Laws years later did anyone ever explain to him that participation certificates were not immediately redeemable upon termination of membership. It was only upon receiving the ByLaws that plaintiff learned that he would not receive a refund until a new member purchased his certificate and that there was a redemption list of former members awaiting refunds. He alleged that he became a member of the Board in part because "numerous former members" advised him that they had requested a copy of the redemption list to assess their status and were denied a copy of same.
Plaintiff further alleged that defendants rescinded his participation certificate "on a representation that [he] acted contrary to the By-Laws of the [Club] which are openly arbitrary and poorly defined." He asserted that "[t]he [defendants'] acts against [him] were clearly arbitrary and unreasonable and would shock the con[science] of a reasonable person." He alleged that defendants refused his repeated demands for a copy of the redemption list or the return of his money. He alleged financial and social harm and sought damages pursuant to the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 to -195.
In the Second Count, plaintiff asserted that he was elected to the Board "to open a dialog between the membership and the behind[-]the[-]scenes actions of the Board" and that he had "discovered that a certain member of [the Club] had entered the alcohol serving section of the clubhouse after hours of operation and consumed alcoholic beverages on more than one occasion" and "disbursed" these beverages to others. Plaintiff claimed that he had sought action by the Board and subsequently discovered that the offending party and other members of the Club and the Board were "involved in a business enterprise" with the Club "as a good customer." He alleged that "[i]n an attempt to silence [him] from informing the general membership of this questionable behavior," the Board "banned" his membership. Further, he asserted that the individual defendants "entered into a confederation with a common design to perpetrate a tort, to [wit,] withhold[ing] from authorities and the membership information regarding the illegal acts of a certain member of [the Club]."
In the Third Count, plaintiff asserted that defendants had breached his contract, been unjustly enriched, and "violated the implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing by refusing to compensate for the [tortious] taking of [his] property without compensation."
In the Fourth Count, plaintiff alleged that the foregoing conduct of defendants was negligent and that defendants' "open refusal to protect the interests and asset values of the general membership, and open wrongful withholding of [his] property," caused financial and social damage.
Under the Fifth Count, plaintiff alleged that the individual defendants, in an attempt to silence him about what amounted to a felony by another Club member, who was associated with them in a business with the Club, expelled him from the Club because they could not remove him from the Board. He alleged that the individual defendants "unjustly interfereed with his membership" and ...