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Clark v. State of New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

August 13, 2013

TONI CLARK, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Submitted August 6, 2013

On appeal from the State of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County, Docket No. L-3056-10.

Toni Clark, appellant pro se.

Schachter Portnoy, L.L.C., attorneys for respondent (Susan G. Steinman, of counsel and on the brief).

Before Judges Lihotz and Guadagno.


Plaintiff Toni Clark appeals from the July 28, 2011 order of the Law Division dismissing her complaint. We affirm.

In 1978, Clark obtained a $2, 500 student loan from Robert Treat Savings & Loan Association to attend the Essex College of Business (ECB). The loan application Clark submitted expressly states she graduated from Clifford Scott High School in 1977. The loan was made pursuant to the Higher Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C.A. § 1087aa to –ii, and respondent, the New Jersey Higher Education Assistance Authority (NJHEAA), guaranteed the loan. Clark defaulted, and NJHEAA purchased the loan from the lender. On October 15, 1985, NJHEAA obtained a default judgment against Clark for the unpaid balance of the loan. Shortly thereafter, Clark resumed making monthly payments on the debt.

In 2003, Clark sought to have the loan discharged, claiming she did not have a high school diploma at the time she enrolled at ECB. On October 3, 2003, NJHEAA advised Clark that her loan was not eligible for discharge. Clark did not appeal this decision.

In 2008, Clark stopped making payments, and in 2010, she filed a motion to vacate the 1985 judgment. Her motion was denied on November 10, 2010.

On November 4, 2010, Clark filed a complaint alleging NJHEAA was negligent in guaranteeing her student loan. As best we can discern from Clark's complaint, her theory of negligence is: (1) she did not graduate from high school, as was represented in her loan application; (2) this made it "very difficult [for Clark] to complete the [ECB] program;" and (3) NJHEAA had an obligation to "mak[e] sure [ECB] made all students have the basic requirement[s] for admission to their program." As a result of NJHEAA's alleged negligence, Clark claims to have suffered extreme stress, mental anguish, and extreme pain and suffering. She is seeking $100, 000 in damages.

In lieu of an answer, NJHEAA moved to dismiss Clark's complaint pursuant to Rule 4:6-2(e). Clark failed to respond and her complaint was dismissed with prejudice on July 28, 2011.

On appeal, Clark maintains NJHEAA was "negligent because they didn't investigate and check the [ECB] admission process . . . before they agreed to be an insurer of student loans."

After a review of the record, we find insufficient merit in Clark's argument to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R^ 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We add only the following brief comments.

Respondent acted as a loan guarantor and played no role in reviewing Clark's loan application or in lending her money. Respondent's function here, was to buy the loan from the lender after the loan went into default and then "collect on the debt." N.J.A.C. 9A:10-1.4(8). It is the school's responsibility to determine a student's eligibility for a loan "and the maximum amount that may be borrowed." N.J.A.C. 9A:10-1.9(b).

We therefore discern no reason to disturb the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint.


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