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Leslie v. Gruben

BER-C-243-07 (N.J. Super. Ch. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

APPRAISERS — Where an appraiser, acting as an arbitrator, incorrectly utilizes information, such as a misidentified lot size, but it has no effect on the property’s overall evaluation, the appraisal will be upheld.

A tenant filed for emergent relief to enforce his right to purchase his leased premises pursuant to a purchase option in his lease. The sale price was to be the average of each party’s appraisal, but no less than $775,000. Prior to suit, the landlord allegedly refused to sell for lower than his appraiser’s valuation of $1,750,000. The tenant’s appraiser valued the property at $900,000. The parties eventually reached a settlement by which they would adhere to a court appointed appraiser’s valuation. That appraiser valued the property at $1,130,000.

The landlord filed a notice of motion to vacate the consent order that had called for valuation by the court’s new independent appraiser. The landlord alleged material factual errors by the independent appraiser in its valuation. The Court held that the facts did not demonstrate any exceptional or compelling circumstance under which enforcement of the court order would result in a grave injustice, and so denied the motion. It also found that the appraiser’s incorrect identification of the lot size had no effect on its overall valuation, and the valuation was above the minimum purchase price threshold as provided in the lease agreement, thereby supporting a reasonable valuation. The Court found that the landlord failed to identify any errors of fact or technique in the appraisal which rose to the level of exceptional or compelling. In addition, it held that there was no injustice in holding the landlord to the bargain into which he expressly entered, and that the Court was obligated to enforce the settlement reached by the parties, as written, in order to achieve the public policy of encouraging the finality of such settlements.

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