On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Burlington County, Docket No. L-1694-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez, Sabatino and Fasciale.
In this case involving the enforcement of personal guarantees on several promissory notes, defendants Kenneth Steliga and Timothy Steliga (the Steligas) appeal from: that part of a July 10, 2009 order granting plaintiff Lineliv, L.P. (Lineliv) partial summary judgment on liability; and a December 14, 2010 order suppressing the Steligas' affirmative defenses. We reverse the July 10 order, and affirm in part and reverse in part the December 14 order.
On April 10, 2008, in a separate lawsuit against the Steliga Companies,*fn1 (the first lawsuit) Lineliv obtained a judgment after a bench trial concerning various defaults by the Steliga Companies on several notes. The parties in the first lawsuit appealed from that judgment. Lineliv argued that the judge erred by failing to award damages based on a late charge provision. The Steliga Companies contended that the judge erred by concluding that the defaults on the notes invalidated purported lot release provisions included in the mortgages.
We found no merit in the arguments raised by the parties in the first lawsuit and affirmed the judgment. Lineliv, L.P. v. Steliga Homes of Evesham, LLC., No. A-6312-07 (App. Div. June 26, 2009). We concluded that (1) the late charge provisions were unreasonable because the charges were solely punitive, and
(2) the language in the notes, as well as case law, did not support the Steliga Companies' contention that their defaults invalidated the lot release provisions in the mortgages. Id. at 6, 8. In dictum, we stated that "[the Steliga Companies] defaulted on the various notes in the Spring of 2002." Id. at 7.
On June 5, 2008 (almost two months after obtaining judgment against the Steliga Companies), Lineliv filed this complaint against the Steligas seeking to enforce their personal guarantees associated with the notes.*fn2 In October 2008, Lineliv moved for summary judgment and argued that the Steliga Companies defaulted on the notes and the Steligas were personally liable. The Steligas cross-moved for summary judgment and contended mainly that the complaint was barred by the six-year statute of limitations, N.J.S.A. 12A:3-118.
The first motion judge conducted oral argument in December 2008. In January 2009, the court granted summary judgment in favor of Lineliv, entered judgment in the amount of $2,133,786.06, and denied the Steligas' cross-motion. On July 10, 2010, the judge reconsidered his decision and entered summary judgment in favor of Lineliv on liability only, but continued to deny the Steligas' cross-motion seeking to dismiss the complaint as time-barred. In determining when default occurred, the judge relied on our comment in the opinion affirming the judgment in the first lawsuit that the Steliga Companies defaulted on the notes "in the Spring of 2002." The judge stated:
This lawsuit was filed within time, by virtue of the fact the [appellate] opinion said, that . . . "the default occurred in the spring of '02."
Therefore, I know when the default [occurred]. . . . . I was thinking that . . . I needed a default hearing, but I don't need that now.
So six years from there is when [Lineliv] filed [the complaint], still in the spring, June 5th, 2008. Spring is to end on June 21st. It's within spring, which further buttressed my belief . . . that there's no statute of limitations [defense] and no issue with respect thereto.
After he entered judgment on liability in favor of Lineliv, the judge ordered the Steligas to provide "any new defenses to ...