Bamboozled: Wheels of justice grind to a halt

After winning a fight against a moving company for an overdue refund, Daniel James is being kept from his money because of bureaucracy and red tape.

In May 2011, James and his wife Doris sold their Byram home, moving to a 55-and-older community in Manchester.

The couple hired J.D. Carton & Son, based in Parsippany, to handle the move. James said they did a great job.

“They arrived at our old home on time, quickly loaded up the truck and met us at our new home on time, quickly unpacking the truck,” James said. “When they presented me with the final bill, it was $464 less than the original quote.”

A good thing, James thought at the time. But because the moving company contract required payment by bank check, James already had payment in hand for $1,735 — the amount quoted on the contract.

“The moving supervisor I spoke to on the phone at the completion of the move stated that they would issue me a refund once the check had cleared,” James said.

But that refund never arrived.

James said he called the moving company half a dozen times and also sent a letter, but he was never issued the refund. He took the only action he could think of: He sued the company in small claims court, the Morris Special Civil part.

The process was simple, James said. He filled out the paperwork on Aug. 2, 2011, and he soon received notice that the court sent a summons to the company on Aug. 10. The company had until Sept. 19 to respond.

After that date, James called the court for an update, and he learned the company didn’t respond. He wrote to the court requesting a default judgment.

On Oct. 12, he got it.

But that was only the beginning. James still had to collect the money.

By January 2012, the company still hadn’t paid up, so James went back to the court for help.

He asked the court for a writ of execution so the court would enforce the judgment.

The writ was granted within days.

And in April, James was notified that a court officer had the money, and he’d receive a check by the end of the month.

But by May, and there was no payment.

James said he called the court officer on May 7, but was greeted with a voice mail that said the court officer was no longer working there. So James called the court’s main number.

“I spoke to a gentleman who said that all of (the court officer’s) files were being audited and that no payment would be issued until the audit was completed,” he said.

He was told to call back at the end of the month.

“I was advised … that the check had been cut and should be mailed out in June,” he said. “When June came, I was advised that it would take a couple of months for an audit to be completed before the payment would be issued.”

James kept calling the court for updates, and in July he was advised to send a letter to the court requesting the release of the check.

He did.

Nothing happened.

James called the new officer assigned to his case in the beginning of August, but the officer was on vacation. He called again Aug. 28, and the officer was still on vacation.

Finally, on Sept. 4, James reached the officer, who said the audit was continuing.
James called state Superior Court in Trenton, hoping for assistance.

“After 15 minutes on hold, I was transferred to another number,” he said. “I was not provided the number I was being transferred to or the name of the individual I would be speaking to. My call was routed to a voice messaging system.”

He left a message.

“Net result? Nada,” James said. No one returned his call.

He’s even written to his state legislators, but they said they were unable to help because they do not get involved in court business.

James reached out to his court officer one more time last week. The officer said it may be another two months before the audit is completed, but that it wouldn’t necessarily mean the check would be mailed out in two months.

Finally, James asked Bamboozled for help.

On the Case

We reviewed the court documents and letters written by James to the court, and we asked the court to review the case.

While we waited for an answer, we took a closer look at the moving company that started it all: J.D. Carton & Son.

On its website, the company boasts that it’s been in business for 56 years. It does both residential and business moving jobs within the state, out-of-state and internationally.

No complaints with Consumer Affairs, and its license is in good standing.

Back to the court. Spokeswoman Tamara Kendig confirmed that the court officer who initially handled the James case resigned, and the officer’s trust account — which was the landing point for monies collected from thousands of cases under his watch — is being audited.

“We’re very sorry for the delay, but there are more liabilities than Mr. James’ and we need a full accounting of that before we can release the funds,” Kendig said.

She also confirmed that the audit is expected to be completed in about two months, but she couldn’t say if there was a specific reason why this account is being audited.
So much for fast justice for James. Six months and counting.

“At this point, it’s not about the money,” James said. “It’s just frustrating that (the system is) not working the way you think it should work.”

We’ll let you know if James ever gets his money, and what the court learns from this audit — if anything.