NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted April 30, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. DC-16476-11.
Andre Parrish, appellant pro se.
Tamika Paton, respondent pro se.
Before Judges Lihotz and Ostrer.
Defendant Andre Parrish appeals from a Special Civil Part order of judgment after trial, finding him liable to plaintiff Tamika Paton for damages she suffered from an assault. Defendant maintains the trial judge failed to credit his defense. We have considered defendant's arguments in light of the record and applicable law. We affirm.
The parties had a prior dating relationship. After it ended, plaintiff befriended J.M., another of defendant's former girlfriends and the mother of his child. It would be an understatement to say there was tension in the women's relationship with defendant.
At trial, plaintiff recounted her version of events, which occurred during the late evening of May 11, 2010. According to plaintiff, she and her two friends accompanied J.M. to defendant's residence to retrieve J.M.'s daughter's clothing. J.M. felt defendant disrespected her when he threw a bag of clothing toward her from his second floor balcony. She lost control of her temper and began yelling, screaming, and repeatedly ringing the doorbell. She then ripped the mailboxes off the wall. Defendant's sister responded to the bell, asking J.M. to stop. Defendant appeared on the second-floor balcony stating: "I['ve] got something for you[, ] bitches."
Coincidently, two of defendant's relatives arrived at the residence and exited their vehicle during J.M.'s rampage. A melee broke out among the relatives, defendant's sister, plaintiff and J.M. At some point, the front door of the residence was knocked in. Defendant stood in the entry armed with a baseball bat. He first struck J.M., breaking her jaw and then he hit plaintiff in the head and legs with the bat. Plaintiff acknowledged punching defendant in the face after being struck.
Defendant admitted striking the women, but claimed he did so to prevent their entrance into his home and the possible resultant harm to his property and family. He stated his concern was based on two events that occurred earlier that month, including: plaintiff's knife assault upon him on May 5 and her theft, bleaching, and burning of his clothing on May 10, which she published on Facebook. Defendant believed plaintiff and J.M. carried bleach in the car suggesting they intended to throw it in his face. He also testified they had a frying pan. Defendant's mother called 9-1-1. The police arrived, broke up the fracas, but made no arrests at the scene.
Subsequently, on September 26, 2011, criminal charges were filed against defendant. He ultimately pled guilty to the disorderly person's offense of simple assault, resulting from his attack on plaintiff. J.M. and plaintiff separately initiated domestic violence proceedings against defendant.
Plaintiff filed a Special Civil Part complaint to recover damages resulting from the assault. She produced bills for hospital treatment she received in the early hours of May 12, 2010. Following testimony, the judge determined: "I don't believe they [plaintiff and J.M.] came to your house for good reasons." Nevertheless, she rejected his claim of self-defense, concluding defendant did not use "proper force" when repelling plaintiff, noting police found neither bleach nor a frying pan. Based on the hospital bills, the judge reduced the sum due by twenty-five percent, ...