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Hanover Architecture Service, Pa. v. Christian Testimony-Morris, N.P

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 6, 2014

HANOVER ARCHITECTURE SERVICE, P.A., Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY-MORRIS, N.P., et al., Defendants.

MARSHALL, DENNEHEY, WARNER, COLEMAN, & GOGGIN, John G. O'Brien, Esq., Wendy H. Smith, Esq., Roseland, New Jersey, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

FOLEY & LARDNER LLP, Jonathan E. Moskin, Esq., Anne B. Sekel, Esq., Alicia Pitts, Esq., New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendants.

OPINION

DICKINSON R. DEBEVOISE, District Judge.

This matter arises out of a breakdown in the business relationship between Plaintiff Hanover Architecture Service, P.A. ("Hanover") and Defendant Christian Testimony-Morris, N.P. ("Christian Testimony"), where Hanover was providing architectural design services to Christian Testimony for the purposes of obtaining a variance and construction permit from the Township of Parsippany Building & Construction Office ("the Township") to construct a new church facility ("the Conversion Project"). On October 21, 2010, Hanover filed a Complaint against Defendants Christian Testimony; Visbeen Construction Co. D.P.; Peter Raymond Wells, Architect, LLC; Reiner Group, Inc.; Energy Saving and Electrical Corp., Inc.; James Chang; Kenneth Visbeen; Peter Raymond Wells; and Jinfar Liu, setting forth causes of action for copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement under 17 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.; removal/alternation of copyright management information and conspiracy to commit removal/alteration of copyright management information under 17 U.S.C. § 1202(b) et seq.; providing false copyright management information and conspiracy to provide false copyright management information under 17 U.S.C. § 1202(a) et seq.; fraudulent inducement of contractual relations; negligent misrepresentation; and unfair competition under N.J.S.A. 46:1-4. The Complaint seeks declaratory judgment, an accounting of profits, injunctive relief, statutory damages, actual damages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, treble damages, interest, costs, and attorneys' fees.

On January 18, 2011, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. Hanover opposed the motion. On March 28, 2011, Hanover filed an Amended Complaint setting forth the same causes of action as those in the original Complaint. On November 29, 2011, this Court issued an Opinion and Order, on the Amended Complaint, granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with respect to Hanover's fraud claim, but denying the motion with respect to Hanover's other claims.

On December 28, 2011, Defendants filed an answer to the Amended Complaint, along with counterclaims for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and cancellation of certain copyright registrations. On October 3, 2012, Hanover filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on Christian Testimony's counterclaim for breach of contract, which Christian Testimony opposed. On January 24, 2014, this Court issued an Opinion and Order granting Hanover's motion on Christian Testimony's counterclaim for breach of contract, as it relates to Christian Testimony's allegations that Hanover (1) provided designs that required several revisions before meeting the Township's requirements; and (2) misclassified the building to house the Conversion Project and refused to reclassify it. The Court denied the motion in all other respects.

Christian Testimony now moves for reconsideration and/or clarification of the portion of the Court's January 24, 2014 Opinion and Order granting Hanover's Motion for Summary Judgment on Christian Testimony's counterclaim for breach of contract, as it relates to Christian Testimony's allegations that Hanover (1) provided designs that required several revisions before meeting the Township's requirements; and (2) misclassified the building to house the Conversion Project and refused to reclassify it. For the reasons set forth below, that motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are fully set fort in Hanover Architecture Service, P.A. v. Christian Testimony-Morris, N.P., 2014 WL 282698 (D.N.J. Jan. 24, 2014). Thus, for the sake of brevity, the Court will repeat only those facts that are material to the instant motion.

Hanover is an architectural firm led by Chiming Liou. Christian Testimony is a bornagain Christian church. In January 2005, James Chang, the president of Christian-Testimony, contacted Hanover to evaluate whether a certain warehouse in Boonton, New Jersey, could house the Conversion Project. On March 13, 2005, after multiple telephone and in-person conversations, Hanover and Christian-Testimony entered into an agreement ("the First Agreement") under which Hanover would provide a review of the existing building plans and architectural design services of the warehouse for the purpose of obtaining a variance from the Township.

On September 20, 2005, the parties entered into a second agreement, under which Hanover agreed to provide architectural drawings for the Conversion Project that complied with building code requirements ("the Second Agreement"). On October 19, 2006, after the Township granted a variance to Christian Testimony, Hanover and Christian Testimony entered into a third agreement, under which Hanover would provide additional architectural drawings meeting building code requirements during the permit application process ("the Third Agreement"). Christian Testimony claims that Hanover breached the Third Agreement in multiple respects.

Specifically, "Hanover incorrectly classified the building under relevant building codes, thus requiring the addition of a firewall that was not included in the plans as originally prepared by Hanover and which would have required substantial additional cost to Christian Testimony." (Answer and Counterclaims ¶ 286a.) Moreover, when Christian Testimony discovered that "no firewall should have been required, Hanover refused to cooperate with the [Township]... to correct its own mistake and insisted instead to Christian Testimony that it needed to build the firewall, as a result of which progress on the project was delayed for many months and at considerable additional cost." (Id.) In addition, "Hanover was required to revise the plans three times, because it failed to meet the requirements of the Township, as a result of which, progress on the project was delayed for many months and at considerable additional cost." (Id. ¶ 286b.)

Christian Testimony maintains that Hanover's refusal to modify the designs for the Conversion Project amounts to a breach of contract, and, as a result, Christian Testimony had to "hire a second architect to create new drawings to reduce the projected construction costs by more than $1.0 million (from $3.5 to $2.4 million), which was still well in excess of the originally agreed budget and required Christian Testimony to obtain substantial additional mortgage financing." (Id. ¶ 297.) In addition, the Conversion Project was "needlessly delayed, and Christian Testimony was required to lease alternative space at a cost of more than $135, 000." (Id. ¶ 298.)

On December 26, 2007, Hanover delivered a copy of its designs of the Conversion Project to Christian Testimony. These copies incorporated changes requested by the Township during its first-level review. On March 12, 2008, Hanover provided a copy of its designs of the Conversion Project that incorporated changes requested by the Township during its second-level review. On March 22, 2008, Hanover provided a copy of its ...


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