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Friendship Manor, Inc. v. Greiman - 244 N.J. Super. 104, 581 A.2d 893 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 1990)

Rule:

The party asking the aid of the court for specific performance must stand in conscientious relation to his adversary; his conduct in the matter must have been fair, just and equitable, not sharp or aiming at unfair advantage. The relief itself must not be harsh or oppressive. In short, it must be very plain that his claim is an equitable one.

Facts:

Plaintiff Friendship Manor, Inc. ("Friendship") filed a specific performance action in New Jersey state court to compel defendant Murray Greiman, individually and trading as Grey Realty Co. (collectively, "Greiman"), to convey to it, free and clear of any encumbrances, a parcel of vacant land that Greiman had contracted to sell to it for $ 75,000. Specifically, Friendship sought to have Greiman satisfy two mortgages given to third-party defendant Garden State Bank ("Bank') by his own grantor, Bee Tree Corporation. Greiman, taking the position that the mortgages were void and unenforceable as to his chain of title because of their late recording, filed a third-party complaint against the Bank demanding a judgment so declaring. Following a bench trial, the trial court concluded that the mortgages were a valid lien upon the premises. It declined, however, in its discretion, to grant Friendship specific performance, awarding it instead damages for breach of Greiman's contractual undertaking to convey good title. Greiman appealed; Friendship cross-appealed from that portion of the judgment denying it the remedy of specific performance.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in denying Friendship specific performance?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate division reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court for entry of a modified judgment directing specific performance. The court ruled that it was clear that Friendship was entirely blameless in its own transactional conduct and expectations. There was no reason to deprive it of the benefit of its bargain, that is, conveyance of the property for the stated price. Greiman, on the other hand, while he may have had no actual knowledge of the Bank's mortgages, was in substantial measure actually responsible, even if not morally so, for the events that transpired after the execution of the deed to him. Nor did the court perceive, on the record, any oppressive hardship in requiring him to satisfy the mortgages out of Friendship's purchase price.

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