80 W. Century v. Drosos Lorenzo & Assocs., A-0785-21

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Parties80 WEST CENTURY LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. DROSOS LORENZO & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberA-0785-21
Decision Date22 November 2022

80 WEST CENTURY LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,

DROSOS LORENZO & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-0785-21

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

November 22, 2022

This opinion shall not "constitute precedent or be binding upon any court." Although it is posted on the internet, this opinion is binding only on the parties in the case and its use in other cases is limited. R. 1:36-3.

Submitted October 12, 2022

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. LT-004328-20.

Zervas Law LLC, attorney for appellant (John Zervas, on the briefs).

Robert P. Travers Law, LLC, attorney for respondent (Robert P. Travers, on the brief).

Before Judges Messano, Rose, and Gummer.



In this commercial landlord-tenant case, defendant Drosos Lorenzo &Associates, PC, appeals a November 16, 2021 judgment of possession (JOP), which was issued in favor of plaintiff 80 West Century LLC after a trial. Because a lockout was performed and defendant no longer possesses the property at issue, we dismiss the appeal as moot.


On August 24, 2020, plaintiff filed a verified complaint in the LandlordTenant Division, asserting it was the owner and landlord of property defendant had occupied since December 1, 2018, pursuant to a written lease agreement. Plaintiff alleged defendant owed base rent for the months April, May, and June 2020, plus electricity and late charges and attorney's fees and costs. Plaintiff sought a JOP.

On or about January 4, 2021, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Law Division against defendant and its majority shareholders, Angelo Drosos and Hector Lorenzo, claiming, among other things, breach of a lease and damages based on defendant's failure to pay rent and other charges. In the answer to the Law Division complaint, defendant admitted plaintiff owned the property at issue, defendant was the tenant in possession of the property, and that a written lease containing terms requiring the tenant to pay rent and other charges existed.


In a counterclaim, defendant asserted plaintiff was the landlord and owner of the property, plaintiff had agreed to lease the property to defendant pursuant to a written lease agreement dated October 25, 2018, and defendant had paid plaintiff "continuous monthly rent." Defendant subsequently filed a third-party complaint against plaintiff and its "majority interested [m]embers," Elie Cohen and Isaac Cohen (Isaac).[1] Defendant alleged it had been "constructively evicted" by plaintiff and the Cohens. Defendant unsuccessfully moved in the Law Division for the transfer of the Landlord-Tenant Division case to the Law Division and for the consolidation of the two cases.

The initial trial date of the Landlord-Tenant Division case was September 20, 2021. In anticipation of that trial date, the parties filed pretrial exchange statements, in which they identified the exhibits they intended to offer into evidence, and provided the court and each other with copies of their exhibits. Plaintiff's exhibits included a lease and rent ledger; defendant's exhibits included a lease dated October 25, 2018, which had been executed on behalf of both parties. During the September 20, 2021 proceeding, defendant requested a


Marini hearing.[2] The court issued an order directing defendant to deposit with the court $146,161.36 within five days. Defendant did not make that deposit. The court ultimately rescheduled the trial for November 16, 2021.

Isaac was the only witness to testify during the trial. On direct examination, Isaac described himself as "part" of plaintiff's "property management team." Isaac testified that he and his "accounting team" had prepared a rent ledger, which was "an accounting of the rent due and owing." Isaac testified defendant owed a total of $179,283.25: $147,600 in base rent, $13,120 in electricity charges, and $18,563.25 in late fees. Plaintiff's counsel showed Isaac a document, and Isaac confirmed it was the parties' lease.

On cross-examination, Isaac confirmed plaintiff owned the property at issue. Isaac acknowledged the copy of the lease presented by plaintiff's counsel contained only a signature on behalf of defendant and did not contain a signature on behalf of plaintiff. Defense counsel then moved to dismiss the case "for failure to provide any [evidence of] ownership or [otherwise] t[ie] the parties together [regarding] this lease. There's no deed that was provided, and there


[are] no copies of a fully-executed lease." The court denied the motion, finding the lease contained a signature on behalf of defendant and that plaintiff had been "identified as the landlord."

Defense counsel also questioned Isaac about the rent ledger. According to Isaac, the rent ledger was prepared using information from plaintiff's "accounting system." Isaac confirmed the last due date on the rent ledger was September 1, 2021, but testified he had "an updated rent ledger . . . showing $179,283.25 owed today." Plaintiff's counsel provided the court and defense counsel with the updated rent ledger. When asked about a particular entry on the ledger, Isaac explained that because defendant paid its rent by credit card, defendant's total payment included an additional credit-card fee,...

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