Skip to main content

The Briarcliff Owners, Inc. v. Langer

A-3689-03T3 (N.J. Super App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETION—The concept of “substantial completion” excludes the notion of absoluteness or completeness and only contemplates that the required improvements will be well on the way to completion or mostly done.

A wheelchair-bound proprietary shareholder sued his cooperative corporation, complaining of a lack of handicap accommodations. A settlement agreement was reached and its terms were placed on the record. The agreement required the cooperative to substantially complete certain improvements within 45 days of the date after the settlement agreement. Specifically, it was required, inter alia, to: (1) pay $5,000 to the shareholder; (2) repair any leaks causing water and debris to fall on the shareholder’s car or install a protective roof over the shareholder’s parking spot to protect the shareholder and his car from falling water and debris; (3) install handicap-rated automatic doors; and (4) install a handicap accessible buzzer and intercom. Several months later, the cooperative corporation filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment affirming, as satisfied, the terms of the settlement agreement.

At trial, the shareholder claimed that all of the improvements had to be completed within the 45 day deadline set in the settlement agreement. The lower court disagreed, holding that the settlement agreement required only “substantial completion” of the improvements within the 45 day period. According to the lower court, the concept of substantial completion excluded the notion of absoluteness or completeness and only contemplated that the improvements would be well on their way to completion or mostly done. The property managers testified that the $5,000 had been paid; the handicap-rated automatic doors were installed; the shareholder made use of the doors; and the doorbell and intercom were installed and operational prior to the expiration of the 45 day deadline. The lower court accepted this testimony as credible and found that the coop substantially completed the required improvements within the 45 day period.

Holding that a lower court’s findings and conclusions are entitled to great deference and should not be disturbed unless they are manifestly unsupported by, or inconsistent with, the competent evidence, the Appellate Division found that the lower court’s findings and conclusions were adequately supported by the record. Consequently, it affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

66 Park Street • Montclair, New Jersey 07042
tel: 973-783-3000 • fax: 973-744-5757 •