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Goldberg Segalla’s Zealous Advocation and Teamwork Leads to Dismissal of Claims against National Retailer

Case Study

Goldberg Segalla’s Zealous Advocation and Teamwork Leads to Dismissal of Claims against National Retailer

A fervent defense strategy waged by a team of Goldberg Segalla litigators led to the dismissal of a lawsuit against a national retail client sued by a plaintiff whose purchase of new cabinets did not go as she planned.

The victory secured by partner John M. McConnell and attorney Courtney E. Darmofal underscores the value of identifying potentially responsible parties to transfer risk early on in the defense of a case, while also seeking relief through a meritorious dispositive motion.

The lawsuit against our client stemmed from the plaintiff’s purchase of custom cabinets from a Paramus, N.J. store in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic. The retailer contracted with, and paid, its manufacturer to make and deliver the cabinets. Upon producing the cabinetry, the manufacturer hired a local vendor to deliver the cabinets.

The plaintiff, however, then advised that due to COVID restrictions and other construction delays, she could not accept delivery of the cabinets until 2021. Thus, the delivery company held them, but after approximately 45 days began charging a daily holding fee.

Plaintiff claims that when she ultimately decided to accept delivery, she learned she was being charged a daily fee. So, rather than paying the fee, the plaintiff instead bought new cabinets and subsequently sued the delivery company and our client to recoup the cost of the cabinets purchased to replace the ones not delivered to her, as well as any storage fees the court found were incurred, and the costs of the new cabinets she purchased.

In waging our defense, our client first tendered to the manufacturer of the cabinets, arguing that under the contract, the manufacturer agreed to produce the cabinets, for which it was paid, and deliver them to the plaintiff. John and Courtney — vice chair and team member of Goldberg Segalla’s Business and Commercial practice group, respectively — argued that, under the contract, the manufacturer must defend and indemnify it, as plaintiff essentially claimed that the contract required both a manufacturing and delivering of the cabinets, but the delivery was not accomplished and it resultantly caused plaintiff to bring claims against their client.

The retailer also joined the manufacturer as a Third Party defendant. After learning of the manufacturer’s role, the plaintiff wrote to the court and advised she was also going to bring claims against the manufacturer as well.

While awaiting the manufacturer’s response to our tender, John and Courtney filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of all claims and cross-claims against the retailer, arguing it satisfied its duty to the plaintiff, but she did not accept the cabinets.

John and Courtney also argued our client did not manufacture, ship or store the cabinets, nor did it send the cabinets to the delivery company. Rather, it contracted with the manufacturer to manufacture and ship them, and therefore, our client did not breach any duty to the plaintiff as a matter of law.

The judge agreed and noted there were no issues of fact in dispute, and that our client was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The judge also noted given the plaintiff’s plan to sue the manufacturer, a party exists from which she can still seek potential recovery rather than from our client.

The decision is important as it highlights how John and Courtney worked as a team with their client to develop a litigation strategy plan to identify potential risk transfer sources early, then executed the plan with zealous advocacy to the client’s satisfaction.

John is a partner in Goldberg Segalla’s Civil Litigation and Trial, Commercial Litigation and Arbitration, OSHA and Worksite Safety practice groups. Courtney is an attorney with our Commercial Litigation and Arbitration practice group. Both work from the firm’s Princeton office.