GL Trinity Holdings, LLC v. Emachah, A-0121-21

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesGL TRINITY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. SHATHA EMACHAH, a/k/a SHATHA SAAB, an individual, and as a manager/owner of INSURED ADVISOR LLC, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberA-0121-21
Decision Date22 November 2022

GL TRINITY HOLDINGS, LLC, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.

SHATHA EMACHAH, a/k/a SHATHA SAAB, an individual, and as a manager/owner of INSURED ADVISOR LLC, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-0121-21

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 November 10, 2022

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, Docket No. L-2354-19.

David M. Shafkowitz, attorney for appellant.

Sarofiem &Antoun, and Damian Lawandi, LLP, attorneys for respondent (Mekhail E. Sarofiem and David C. Rosciszewski, on the brief).

Before Judges Gooden Brown and Mitterhoff.

PER CURIAM

1

Defendant, Shatha Emachah, a/k/a Shatha Saab, appeals from an August 16, 2019 order denying her motion to vacate the entry of default judgment against her and extend the time for filing an answer. We affirm, substantially for the reasons set forth in Judge J. Randall Corman's well-reasoned written opinion.

We discern the following facts from the record. Plaintiff, GL Trinity Holdings, LLC is a New Jersey corporation in the business of real estate investments. Defendant is the sole owner, member, manager, and registered agent of Insured Advisor, LLC (Insured Advisor), d/b/a HomeOwner Advisor, another New Jersey corporation.

On or about June 3, 2018, plaintiff contacted Firas Emachah,[1] defendant's husband, regarding home improvements on property owned by plaintiff. Firas allegedly presented himself as the owner of HomeOwner Advisor. Firas entered into an oral agreement to undertake home improvements on plaintiff's property.[2]

2

On or about June 7, 2018, Firas requested an advance to allegedly purchase products and materials necessary for the agreed upon improvements. Plaintiff provided Firas with $20,000 and secured a promissory note to be paid back in two weeks in the event Firas did not fulfil his obligation to plaintiff. Firas then provided a post-dated check for repayment and deposited plaintiff's check in an account owned by Insured Advisor and defendant. Defendant and her husband then put a stop payment on the repayment check. Plaintiff was never refunded the money, nor have the agreed upon home improvements been made.

On August 14, 2018, plaintiff filed the original complaint in this matter against: (1) Firas; (2) defendant, as an individual; and (3) Insured Advisor. As against Insured Advisor and Firas, plaintiff alleged: (count one) breach of contract; (count two) breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; (count three) promissory estoppel; (count five) negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation; (count six) fraud; and (count seven) consumer fraud. As against Insured Advisor and defendant, plaintiff alleged: (count eight) negligent entrustment and (count nine) negligent supervision. The complaint further asserted (count four) unjust enrichment against Firas, defendant, and Insured Advisor.

3

On August 23, 2018, Firas and defendant were served with the original complaint; defendant was served both in her individual capacity and as Insured Advisor's registered agent. Despite being served, all named defendants failed to plead or otherwise defend the lawsuit. As a result, a default judgment was entered against Insured Advisor and Firas on November 28, 2018 in the amount of $25,215.02.[3] The claims against defendant in her individual capacity were voluntarily dismissed by plaintiff at a proof hearing by way of a stipulation of dismissal.

On January 15, 2019, pursuant to the entry of judgment, plaintiff served defendant, in her capacity as corporation agent, with an information subpoena. To date, defendant has not responded. Also following the entry of judgment, Firas filed for personal protection under Chapter 7 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.

On March 22, 2019, plaintiff filed the instant complaint, naming only defendant in her personal capacity as the sole officer of Insured Advisor. In this ancillary lawsuit, plaintiff sought to pierce the corporate veil against defendant pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:17-75. Plaintiff further asserted (count three) conspiracy and reinstated the previously dismissed claims against defendant

4

from the original complaint: (count two) unjust enrichment; (count four) negligent entrustment; and (count five) negligent supervision. On April 9. 2019, defendant was served, through personal service, by Guaranteed Subpoena Service on defendant's mother, Yosra Onasha, at defendant's residence. However, defendant once again failed to plead or otherwise defend the ancillary lawsuit.

The court then scheduled a proof hearing for June 11, 2019. Defendant was put on notice of the scheduled proof hearing by certified mail. Ultimately, defendant did not appear for the proof hearing and the judge entered final judgment by default against her[4] for a total of $85,194.99.

On August 16, 2019, the court denied defendant's motion to vacate the entry of default and to extend the time for filing an answer to plaintiff's complaint. On December 8, 2020, we vacated the June 11, 2019 judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law, pursuant to Rule 1:7-4.[5] GL Trinity Holdings, LLC v. Emachah, No. A-

5

0376-19 (App. Div. Dec. 8, 2020) (slip op. at 4). We did not address the merits of defendant's claims.

On August 6, 2021, the trial court issued a written opinion outlining the court's reasoning for choosing not to vacate default judgment in this matter. After a detailed summation of the facts, the court addressed each of defendant's arguments in turn:

The[d]efendant's claim that the judgment should be vacated because she was not properly served is without merit because the [p]laintiff has presented proof that the summons and complaint were personally served by Guaranteed Subpoena Service on [d]efendant's mother, Yosra Onasha, at [d]efendant['s] . . . residence, on April 9, 2019. Pursuant to [Rule] 4:4-4, this constitutes valid service of process.
The[d] efendant's argument to vacate the judgment under [Rule] 4:50-1(c) is equally unavailing. The [d]efendant alleges that the [p]laintiff's attorney misrepresented that he
...

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