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Triffin v. Community Preschool & Nursery, LLC

A-2730-10T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

CHECKS — A New Jersey court does not have a geographical restriction on its authority to levy on an out-of-state bank account if it has personal jurisdiction over the bank and the subject matter of the suit is within the authority of the court.

An individual purchased a dishonored check from a check cashing agency. The check had been issued by a preschool to an individual. It was cashed, but eventually payment was stopped. The buyer sued the nursery school to recover on the dishonored check and received a judgment by default. The buyer then sought to execute the judgment against the nursery school’s bank, which was based in Pennsylvania. The buyer applied for, and received, a writ of execution to levy on the nursery’s bank accounts. A special civil part officer served the levy on the bank. The special civil part officer received a response from the bank’s garnishment processing unit in Pennsylvania advising him that the bank had placed a hold on the nursery’s account in the amount of the levy.

The buyer then filed a motion for turnover of the levied account. The motion was unopposed by both the bank and the nursery. Nonetheless, the lower court denied the buyer’s motion. Without citing any legal authority, it held that the New Jersey courts cannot order a bank located in Pennsylvania to turn over funds and that the judgment had to be enforced against the bank in the Pennsylvania courts.

The buyer appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed. The Court noted that the lower court mistakenly believed that there was a geographical restriction on its authority. It noted that the lower court had personal jurisdiction to compel the bank to turn over the money because the bank satisfied the “minimum contacts” test. The bank had sufficient contacts with the State of New Jersey based on its numerous bank branches within New Jersey and because it clearly conducted business within New Jersey. The Court also noted that, because of its widespread presence in New Jersey, the bank would have had a minimal burden in responding to the litigation, had it chosen to do so.

The Court also found that New Jersey courts had subject matter jurisdiction as well. It found that New Jersey’s courts’ authority to adjudicate the collection suit and the turnover motion fell under the state’s general jurisdiction over matters not exclusively vested in federal courts. Furthermore, once the special civil part issued a writ of execution and bank levy, the Pennsylvania bank implicitly recognized New Jersey’s jurisdiction when it placed a hold on the nursery’s accounts and then refused to object to the turnover motion.

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