JUANITA COOPER v. PATRICK BEATYAnnotate this Case
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-0
February 18, 2015
Submitted January 28, 2015 Decided
Before Judges Alvarez and Waugh.
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Civil Part, Hudson County, Docket No. L-3706-11.
Juanita Cooper, appellant pro se.
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Plaintiff Juanita Cooper appeals the Law Division's January 17, 2014 order denying her motion for reconsideration of its December 10, 2013 order dismissing her complaint against defendant Patrick Beaty. We affirm.
We discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal.1 According to Cooper, she and Beaty had a ten-year relationship, which she described as a "union." In July 2010, they entered into an oral agreement under which they, along with Cooper's minor daughter, would live together in an apartment in Union, which was leased by Beaty.2 He promised to pay the lease and utilities for four years. In April 2011, after they moved to the apartment, their relationship came to an "abrupt" end when Cooper discovered that Beaty was married.
The complaint, which sought specific performance of the oral agreement or damages resulting from its breach, was filed in July 2011. Following a bench trial on December 10, 2013, the trial judge dismissed the complaint on the merits, finding that the oral agreement violated N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h). That statute provides that an unwritten "promise by one party to a non-marital personal relationship to provide support or other consideration for the other party, either during the course of such relationship or after its termination" is not enforceable. Ibid. The statute further provides that, "no such written promise is binding unless it was made with the independent advice of counsel for both parties." Ibid. There was no written promise in this case.
Cooper filed a motion for reconsideration on December 24, 2013. She argued that the trial judge (1) lacked jurisdiction, apparently because the case had been transferred from the Chancery to the Law Division and the trial judge did not have documents from the Chancery Division; (2) the judge inappropriately treated the claim as one for palimony; and (3) the judge failed to explain Cooper's right to appeal.
Following oral argument, the trial judge reconsidered his prior decision, but reached the same result. He concluded that the Law Division had jurisdiction, that he did not treat the case as one for palimony, that the statute precluded the awarding of any damages on a contractual or equitable basis, and that Cooper was not prejudiced by any failure to notify her of her appellate rights. This appeal followed.
Having reviewed the arguments raised on appeal in light of the applicable law, we conclude that they are without merit and do not warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We affirm for the reasons set forth in Judge Lawrence M. Maron's January 17, 2014 oral decision. We add only that, as found by Judge Maron in his initial decision and on reconsideration, the relief sought by Cooper is clearly precluded by N.J.S.A. 25:1-5(h) based on the relationship between the parties as pled and described by Cooper herself.
1 We note that Cooper has not provided a transcript of the bench trial, which requires us to glean the facts from her complaint and brief.
2 Although the complaint refers to an attached lease, the lease itself is not included in the appendix. Cooper contends that she and her daughter were listed on the lease as "occupants." It is not clear whether she was also a party to the lease.