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A Superior Court judge has just ruled that Congregation Khal Chasidim of Westgate's breach of contract lawsuit against Forest Haven LLC can continue, FAA News has learned.

Congregation Khal Chasidim of Westgate is led by Rabbi Benzion Halberstam, the former Rosh Kollel of Bobov in London, England, and a grandson of Kedushas Tzion of Bobov.

Forest Haven LLC is managed by Sam Halpern and Danny Rottenberg.

In August 2021, Congregation Khal Chasidim of Westgate entered into contract agreements to purchase 3 properties from Forest Haven. These properties - located on Kelm Woods Avenue and Brisk Lane in Westgate - were intended to be used for a future shul building, parking lot, and a residence for the Rabbi.

The contract agreements made clear that the closing of the sale was contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions including obtaining clear titles and site plan and building approvals.

The contracts also stipulated, "closing shall be 10 days after the construction approvals are obtained, no later than 6 months from the date of this agreement."

Seems the crux of the dispute now is that the title and construction approvals have not yet been obtained, however, it is well past 6 months since the execution of the purchase contract...

In January 2022, Rabbi Halberstam placed $150,000 in escrow as the 10% deposit of the $1,500,000 total purchase amount.

On April 27, 2023, Ben Hoffer, attorney for Forest Haven, served Rabbi Halberstam with letters purporting to terminate the sale contracts and declaring the $150,000 deposit to be forfeited.

Noah Burton, attorney for Rabbi Halberstam, responded, pointing out that the original closing date was subject to various contingencies which have not yet been met. Accordingly, "any purported termination is a nullity and will be treated as such."

On June 30, 2023, Mr. Hoffer switched course and offered to sell only one parcel and return the deposit on the remaining contracts with no further obligation to the other for the remaining lots.

Rabbi Halberstam's attorney responded with a letter dismissing this offer and stating that he will be ready to close on all 3 properties within 14 days.

Forest Haven did not respond to this letter.

Seeing no other choice, as previously reported here  on FAA News, back in December 2023, Rabbi Halberstam, represented by Toms River Attorney Edward F. Liston Esq., filed a 2-count complaint, asserting that "the actions of the defendants constituted a willful and malicious breach of the contracts, and as a result plaintiffs have suffered damages."

The suit, filed in New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division in Ocean County, demands judgment compelling Forest Haven to complete the closing on the properties, as well as for compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and costs of suit.

Along with filing suit in Superior Court, Rabbi Halberstam also filed a Notice of Lis Pendens with the Ocean County Clerk's Office. This notice serves to alert potential buyers that a lawsuit affecting the ownership of the property is pending.

Forest Haven LLC, represented by Attorney C. John De Simone, responded with a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that it has been nearly two-and-a-half years since the original agreements were executed and in all this time, Rabbi Halberstam did not complete the pre-closing requirements of obtaining the construction permits and approvals he was supposed to obtain within six or seven months.

Moreover, while Rabbi Halberstam claimed that he was “ready, willing, and able to schedule a closing within a reasonable amount of time,” he did not provide any of the required governmental approvals, nor did he provide evidence that he expended “best efforts to work diligently to obtain the approvals and permits” from the Township as required under the agreement, Forest Haven LLC argued.

Rabbi Halberstam responded that he is not obligated to 'establish' anything 'as a matter of law' at this juncture. The Congregation need only allege sufficient facts.

Following oral arguments, Judge Mark Troncone today issued a writted ruling tossing Forest Haven LLC's motion to dismiss, and agreeing with Rabbi Halberstam.

Pursuant to R. 4:6-2(e), parties may move for dismissal, in lieu of answering the complaint or otherwise, when the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When deciding such a motion, a court must search the complaint “in depth and with liberality,” giving plaintiff all “reasonable inference[s].” Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, cmt. 4.1.1 on R. 4:6-2(e) (GANN 2022).

To defeat such a motion, "a plaintiff does not have to prove his or her case but only need establish the complaint contains 'allegations which, if proven, would constitute a valid cause of action."' Guzman v. M. Teixeira Int'l, Inc., quoting Kieffer v. High Point Ins.

Here, the Court is an agreement that Rabbi Halberstam has sufficiently pled bad faith; and that whether it can ultimately prove bad faith is not an issue currently before this Court at this time.

The Court finds that the Complaint as plead is sufficient to survive a Motion to Dismiss.

THEREFORE, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.

The case will now continue into the discovery phase.

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1 comment:

Westgate Rent Control said...

I wouldn’t be surprised if Danny Rotten berg gets a local politician to abolish this court before it has a chance to render an unfavorable decision against him..