Appellate Division Win -- Reversal of Sanctions Award

Today, we discuss a case that is not related to OPRA. In the published opinion of Wolosky v. Fredon Township, we secured the reversal of a sanction of $45,589.35 in counsel fees against our client, Jesse Wolosky (“Plaintiff”).

By way of background, the Plaintiff had filed a tax appeal that challenged the assessment on property owned by Michael and Penny Holenstein. At the time, Ms. Holenstein was the tax assessor in several municipalities. Several times during the proceedings before the trial court, the Holensteins served Plaintiff with frivolous litigation letters. The matter was tried by the trial court. On December 9, 2016, the trial court held that Plaintiff had not overcome the presumption of validity of the assessment on Defendants’ property, and dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint.

At that time, the trial court and Defendants discussed the possibility of filing a motion for sanctions against Plaintiff. Under court rules, motions for sanctions must be filed within 20 days after entry of final judgment. However, Defendants did not file a motion for sanctions. Instead, Plaintiff appealed the dismissal of his tax appeal. On July 24, 2018, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s tax appeal.

On October 18, 2018, 22 months after entry of final judgment, Defendants filed a motion for sanctions against Plaintiff, which was granted. The trial court awarded Defendants counsel fees and costs in the amount of $45,589.35.

On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed. The Court held that the trial court should have addressed the issue of sanctions at the conclusion of trial, not 22 months later. The Court also held that the Defendants had waived their right to seek sanctions because on their Appellate case information statement, they indicated that all claims, including applications for counsel fees, had been resolved.