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Shoreline Electrical Contractors, Inc v. Rustin R. Hafen

December 28, 2011

SHORELINE ELECTRICAL CONTRACTORS, INC., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RUSTIN R. HAFEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. DC-006722-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued November 1, 2011

Before Judges Yannotti and Kennedy.

Defendant Rustin R. Hafen appeals from a judgment entered on October 20, 2010, in favor of plaintiff Shoreline Electrical Contractors, Inc. (Shoreline). We affirm.

On March 19, 2008, Shoreline filed an action in the Special Civil Part of the Law Division against defendant for breach of contract. Shoreline alleged that defendant had retained it to perform certain electrical work at an agreed-upon price. Shoreline claimed that it had performed all of the work and $1,500 was due and owing, plus attorney's fees and costs. Defendant was served with the summons and complaint but did not file an answer within the time required by Rule 6:3-1.

Accordingly, on May 23, 2008, the clerk's office entered default against defendant. On November 17, 2008, upon plaintiff's application, a default judgment was entered against defendant in the amount of $2,323.50, which represented the amount due under the contract, plus attorney's fees and costs.

Thereafter, defendant filed a motion to vacate the default judgment. The trial court entered an order on May 1, 2009, denying the motion. Defendant filed a second motion seeking reconsideration of the May 1, 2009 order. The trial court entered an order dated August 14, 2009, denying that motion.

Defendant appealed. In an unpublished opinion, we concluded that defendant had shown excusable neglect for his failure to file a timely answer, and also had established sufficient reasons which, if proven, would constitute a valid defense to Shoreline's claim. Shoreline Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Hafen, No. A-0269-09 (App. Div. July 16, 2010) (slip op. at 7-8). We concluded that the trial court had mistakenly exercised its discretion by denying defendant's motion to vacate the judgment and the motion for reconsideration. Id. at 8. We remanded the matter to the trial court so that defendant could file an answer to the complaint and the case could be heard on the merits. Id. at 2.

Trial on the matter took place on October 5 and 6, 2010. At the trial, Shoreline presented testimony from Daniel Anthony Brescia (Brescia), Shoreline's President. Brescia stated that Shoreline had agreed to perform certain electrical work at defendant's home at a total contract price of $17,411.

Brescia testified that Shoreline had completed all of the work with the exception of two electrical outlets in the kitchen, which could not be installed until a wall was constructed. Brescia stated that Shoreline sent several letters to defendant over a period of several months seeking access to the home so that it could complete the work. According to Brescia, plaintiff did not reply.

Brescia further testified that $1,500 remained due and owing on the contract. He also said that the contract allows Shoreline to recover attorney's fees and costs incurred in a collection action. Brescia's attorney had billed Shoreline $573 for his work, and Shoreline had paid that amount.

Defendant disputed Brescia's testimony. He testified that Shoreline had abandoned the project. He claimed that he contacted Shoreline many times and asked it to complete the work. Defendant said that when Shoreline failed to respond, he completed the work himself. Defendant further testified that Shoreline's work was not performed in a workmanlike manner. The court ruled, however, that defendant was not qualified to render an opinion on that issue and expert testimony was required.

In addition, defendant sought to admit certain public records which allegedly established that Shoreline had not, in fact, completed all of the work and that some of the work had not been performed in a workmanlike manner. The court found, however, that defendant had not ...


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