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July 6, 2016


Submitted December 7, 2015 Decided

Before Judges Carroll and Sumners.

On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. DC-729-14.

Lara Digna, appellant pro se.

Respondent has not filed a brief.


Plaintiff Lara Digna appeals from a May 12, 2014 bench trial dismissing her Special Civil Part complaint against defendant Taveras Fernandez-Virgilio and a May 28, 2014 order denying reconsideration. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Initially, we note that plaintiff's brief and appendix submitted for our review are muddled and lacking in procedural formalities designed for appellate review.1 Notwithstanding, we discern the following facts and procedural history from the record on appeal. Defendant did not file an opposition brief.

Plaintiff and defendant were involved in a romantic relationship for five to six months. After the relationship ended, plaintiff filed a complaint seeking damages for unpaid loans, clothing, utilities, boarding, groceries, gas, tolls and alcoholic beverages.

At trial, plaintiff testified that she and defendant lived together during their relationship. She claimed that defendant verbally agreed to repay the loans she gave him, as well as various household expenses, totaling approximately $7000. She presented bank statements in an attempt to show cash withdrawals for the loans to defendant. Defendant, however, denied that plaintiff loaned him any money, or that he agreed to pay her for any household expenses. He further disputed plaintiff's assertion that they lived together during their brief relationship.

At the conclusion of trial, the court dismissed the complaint, finding that plaintiff's testimony was not credible, and she did not sustain her burden of proof that she loaned defendant money or that defendant agreed to repay her for household expenses incurred during their relationship. Moreover, the court noted that the bank statements did not substantiate any cash withdrawals to corroborate plaintiff's testimony. Markedly, the few cash withdrawals reflected on the bank statements did not add up to the alleged loan amount and, in fact, were considerably less than plaintiff's assertion. The court also viewed plaintiff's suit as seeking damages for alienation of affections, which cause of action was abolished in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:23 1.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration. The court entered an order on May 28, 2014, denying the motion, noting "[p]laintiff's [m]otion for [r]econsideration offers no new evidence that was [not] available to her at the time the matter was fully tried." This appeal followed.

Our scope of review is limited. An appellate court shall "'not disturb the factual findings and legal conclusions of the trial judge unless [it is] convinced that they are so manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.'" Seidman v. Clifton Sav. Bank, S.L.A., 205 N.J. 150, 169 (2011) (quoting In re Trust Created by Agreement Dated December 20, 1961, ex rel. Johnson, 194 N.J. 276, 284 (2008)); see also Rova Farms Resort, Inc. v. Inv'rs Ins. Co. of Am., 65 N.J. 474, 484 (1974). Review on appeal "does not consist of weighing evidence anew and making independent factual findings; rather, our function is to determine whether there is adequate evidence to support the judgment rendered at trial." Cannuscio v. Claridge Hotel & Casino, 319 N.J. Super. 342, 347 (App. Div. 1999) (citing State v. Johnson, 42 N.J. 146, 161 (1964)).

Applying these principles, we conclude there is no reason to disturb the trial court's judgment, which is supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. Plaintiff, without setting forth any law or citing the record below, presents no support for her argument that she submitted sufficient proof of defendant's liability for unpaid loans and household expenses.


1 We have dismissed appeals before for failing to adhere to procedural guidelines. See Cherry Hill Dodge, Inc. v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 194 N.J. Super. 282, 283-84 (App. Div. 1984) (dismissing an appeal for procedural deficiencies); see also In re Zakhari, 330 N.J. Super. 493, 495 (App. Div. 2000) (holding the court was loath to dismiss an appeal for procedural deficiencies but did so because the deficiencies made it impossible to properly review the matter). However, we have decided to address the merits of the appeal.

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