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Rodano v. Craig

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 4, 2013

FRANK CRAIG and LORI CRAIG, Defendants-Appellants.


Argued May 15, 2013

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Cape May County, Docket No. C-90-80.

Frank Craig, appellant, argued the cause for pro se appellants (Mr. Craig and Lori Craig, on the pro se briefs).

Richard M. King, Jr., argued the cause for respondents (Ford, Flower, Hasbrouck & King, attorneys; Mr. King, on the brief).

Before Judges Sabatino and Maven.


In the latest phase of this protracted litigation concerning an access easement, defendants Frank Craig and Lori Craig, the owners of Lot 1.10 in West Wildwood, appeal from orders entered by Judge William C. Todd, III, on April 5, 2012 and June 14, 2012 denying them relief from their court-ordered obligations concerning the easement. We affirm.

The pertinent background is described at length in this court's comprehensive opinion of May 17, 2011 adjudicating defendants' prior appeal, and does not need to be repeated here. See Rodano v. Craig, Docket No. A-0863-09 (App. Div. May 17, 2011). Defendants' petition for certification seeking to overturn this court's opinion was denied. 208 N.J. 338 (2011).

Following the Supreme Court's denial of review, plaintiffs filed a motion for enforcement of litigant's rights with the Chancery Division. Defendants filed a cross-motion for injunctive relief, primarily seeking, in essence, an order relocating the easement to "North Drive, " an unimproved road. In the meantime, defendants' property became the subject of a lender's foreclosure action.[1] Upon considering defendants' request and other arguments they raised, Judge Todd denied them relief, noting in his oral ruling of April 5, 2012 that such relief was unauthorized "given the [prior] decision made by the Appellate Division." Judge Todd again denied relief to defendants in another order issued on June 14, 2012.

In their present appeal, defendants urge reversal of Judge Todd's orders. They note, among other things, that the trial court has allowed North Drive to be utilized for the ingress and egress of construction vehicles involved in the reconstruction of a home on Lot 1.11, owned by plaintiffs Gerald and Karen Troutner. In that regard, defendants include, in an appendix to their reply brief, an order issued by Judge Christopher Gibson on December 20, 2012. However, Judge Gibson's order notably prohibited defendants from interfering with access to Lot 1.11 across Lot 1.10, as per prior orders of the trial court. The order also directed defendants "to specifically authorize access across Lot 1.10 for the purpose of reconstructing a home at Lot 1.11." Although plaintiffs' counsel acknowledged at oral argument before us that the "North Drive" route was being utilized by the construction vehicles, that use was only out of necessity because defendants have yet to create the passageway specifically prescribed in the Chancery Division's decision following the 2009 trial.

Defendants further argue that the construction of the passageway, which has been estimated to cost approximately $85, 000, is an unnecessary and wasteful expense. The propriety of that expenditure has already been conclusively determined. See Rodano, supra, slip op. at 14, 23-24. There is no reason to relitigate it here See also McNeil v Legislative Apportionment Comm'n 177 N.J. 364 393-95 (2003) (explaining the principles of claim preclusion) Although defendants now may be facing difficult financial circumstances that does not alter the settled nature of their obligations concerning the easement and the construction of a passageway

We have fully considered the balance of defendants' arguments and conclude they lack sufficient merit to warrant comment R 2:11-3(e)(1)(E)


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