Omission of Alleged Cross-Claim From Appellate Appendix Bars Arguments Based on That Pleading

One Step Up, Ltd.v. Sam Logistic, Inc., 419 N.J. Super. 500 (App. Div. 2011).  This opinion by Judge Graves contains a good discussion of a bailor’s rights and responsibilities in connection with conversion claims.  That discussion is probably the reason why the decision was approved for publication.  The opinion also addresses hearsay exceptions for statements by a party opponent and statements against interest, rejecting a party’s attempt to use those exceptions because (1) there was no evidence that the speaker was a party opponent, and (2) there was no evidence that the statement was against the speaker’s interest.  But for appellate practitioners, the key lesson of this case is the need to include all relevant pleadings in the appellate appendix.

The defendants, the parties who appealed, assigned as error the trial court’s dismissal of an alleged cross-claim for indemnification.  But Judge Graves noted that “there is no evidence in the record” of such a cross-claim.  Apparently, if appellants did make such a cross-claim, they did not include it in their appellate appendix.  As a result, their appellate argument on this issue was not considered. 

The failure to include the alleged cross-claim in the appendix also affected one of defendants’ contentions about allegedly mistaken rulings on evidence.  Judge Graves rejected defendants’ “admission by party opponent” argument in part because the alleged admission was made by a co-defendant, and “the record is devoid of any evidence of a cross-claim by defendants against [that co-defendant].”

Perhaps no such cross-claim was ever filed.  If it was filed, defendants made a fatal error by failing to present it to the Appellate Division.