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Skylands Saddlery v. Dionne Haggerty

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY APPELLATE DIVISION


November 2, 2012

SKYLANDS SADDLERY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
DIONNE HAGGERTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hunterdon County, Docket No. SC-85-11.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted October 16, 2012

Before Judges Fisher and Waugh.

This small claims matter arises from defendant Dionne Haggerty's agreement to purchase from plaintiff Skylands Saddlery a saddle, subject to Haggerty's right to a seven-day trial period within which Haggerty could rescind the transaction. The trial judge determined that, one day after termination of the trial period, Haggery requested and Skylands consented to an extension of the trial period "for a few more days" but that Haggerty failed to return the saddle for another thirteen days. We defer to these findings and conclude that the judge correctly determined that Haggerty's failure to return the saddle within the extended trial period finalized the sale. We, therefore, affirm the judgment awarding plaintiff the balance of the sale price.

The circumstances surrounding the transaction are uncomplicated. On January 20, 2011, Haggerty executed a contract with Skylands that called for the sale of a saddle to her, subject to a trial period during which Haggerty could use the saddle to determine its suitability and during which Haggerty could rescind the transaction. The parties' written contract stipulated that, to rescind, Haggerty would have to return the saddle to plaintiff by January 27, 2011. The sales price was $1926. At the time of the formation of the contract, Haggerty provided Skylands with $1250 in cash and a $667 check. As was its custom in light of the potential for rescission, Skylands did not immediately deposit the cash or negotiate the check.

Judge Robert B. Reed heard testimony that there was a snowstorm during the saddle trial period. The judge found that on January 28, 2011 -- a day after the termination of the trial period -- Haggerty left Skylands a voice mail seeking an extension of the trial period for "a few more days." Although Skylands did not respond to the voice mail, its representative testified that the request was acceptable, and the judge found from this that Skylands did not waive its contractual rights but only accommodated Haggerty for a few days because of the inclement weather.

Skylands heard nothing from Haggerty for twelve more days. On February 9, 2011, having not received the saddle back from Haggerty, Skylands deposited the cash and check previously provided by Haggerty. The next day, February 10, 2011, Haggerty appeared at Skylands' place of business seeking to return the saddle and obtain back her money. Skylands refused and thereafter commenced this action as a result of Haggerty's stopping of payment of her $676 check.

In light of these facts, Judge Reed concluded that the sale was final and entered judgment in favor of Skylands in the amount of $676. Haggerty appeals.

The judge's findings either recognized undisputed facts*fn1 or otherwise resolved disputed questions regarding the parties' transaction. The judge's findings are entitled to our deference because they are supported by evidence he found credible. Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Investors Ins. Co., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). The legal question posed by this case concerned whether Skylands' accession to an extension of the trial period for "a few more days" constituted either a waiver of Skylands' right to consider the transaction final or to refuse a return of the saddle after the termination of the extended trial period.

We find no error in Judge Reed's conclusion that Skylands had not waived its contractual rights. A waiver, as the judge correctly observed, is "the voluntary and intentional relinquishment of a known right." Knorr v. Smeal, 178 N.J. 169, 177 (2003); see also Long v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, 10 N.J. 380, 386 (1952). The judge was entitled to view Skylands' lack of objection to Haggerty's voice-mail request of "a few more days" as nothing but an accommodation and insufficient to support a waiver of the consequences of Haggerty's failure to return the saddle within the extended trial period.

With that determination, the only remaining question concerned a determination of the parties' contractual rights. The judge properly determined that, with the termination of the trial period and without Haggerty's return of the saddle, the sale was complete and Skylands was entitled to the entire purchase price. This is what the parties' contract expressly and unambiguously declares: "[s]addle to be [r]eturned to Skylands by 1/27/11." Only a complete rewriting by the court of the parties' unambiguous agreement would support Haggerty's strained interpretation, which we discern from her pro se brief as a right to a reasonable period of time after termination of the trial period in which to return the saddle. Courts do not rewrite unambiguous contracts to provide a party with a better or different agreement than that bargained for. See, e.g., Washingston Constr. Co., Inc. v. Spinella, 8 N.J. 212, 217 (1951); Bar on the Pier, Inc. v. Bassinder, 358 N.J. Super. 473, 480 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 222 (2003).

Because Haggerty stopped payment on the $676 check, Judge Reed correctly ruled that Skylands was entitled to judgment in that amount.

Affirmed.


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