A Lebanon County judge is not backing down from his decision to hit a businessman with a $2.8 million default judgment as a sanction for numerous discovery delays.
Lebanon Judge Charles T. Jones Jr. has denied an emergency petition to open a default judgment against Corey C. Wolff, who was being sued for allegedly using money meant for a solar energy system project to instead pay off millions in corporate and personal debts. In December, Jones had hit Wolff with the default judgment, consisting of $2.44 million on the plaintiff’s claims, plus $432,400 in interest.
Although Wolff challenged Jones’ decision and filed an emergency motion for reconsideration, on June 1, Jones declined to reverse that decision, saying that Wolff had “created an elaborate shell game.”
“Since this action began a little over three years ago, with initial discovery being served in May and June of 2015, defendant Wolff has habitually ignored and disregarded this court’s authority, direction and orders,” Jones said. “Nothing has changed since our order of Dec. 8, 2017, to change the above conclusion.”
Mitts Law attorney Maurice Mitts, who is representing the plaintiff, Sainty Renewable Energy Investment Holdings, said he expects Wolff will appeal, but added that the trial court gave Wolff more than enough time to turn over the requested discovery.
“The court gave plenty of time. They really bent over backwards to be kind and to try to avoid harsh consequences,” he said. “It’s really encouraging to see a stern stance for integrity for the process.”
According to Jones, Sainty Renewable Energy Investment wired $3 million to Energy Systems & Installations Inc. to act as a subcontractor on a project to install a solar energy system at Ramapo College of New Jersey in early 2015. Wolff, according to court documents, is CEO of Energy Systems & Installations.
Sainty Renewable Energy Investment, however, sued in May 2015, alleging that the company only spent about $560,000 of the money on the project, and instead used $2.44 million to pay off the company’s debts and the debts of Wolff and other officers. Sainty Renewable Energy Investment lodged breach of contract, conversion and misrepresentations claims.
Sainty Renewable Energy Investment also contended that Wolff had been acting in bad faith because, at the time it was discussing with Wolff and Energy Systems & Installations about repaying the money, the defendants were negotiating to sell most of their assets to another company.
According to Jones, a default judgment was entered against Energy Systems & Installations and two other defendant companies in August 2016 because they failed to file responsive pleadings, and by October 2016 the plaintiff had filed its second motion to compel against Wolff, seeking documents that were initially requested in May and June of 2015. That motion was granted, but Jones said he had to enter multiple other orders directing Wolff to comply with discovery, which Wolff failed to properly respond to.
In determining the severity of the discovery violation, Jones cited an exchange between Wolff’s attorney and plaintiffs counsel indicating that some responsive information was not being properly turned over. The judge also said Wolff and his attorney acknowledged in February that multiple missing discovery documents were sitting in a box in the attorney’s office, and that emails from Wolff indicated he was seeking to delay turning over documents.
“It is that candid response and mentality that has underpinned the protracted proceedings in this case,” Jones said. “It is this court’s conclusion that defendant Wolff has created an elaborate shell game.”
Offit Kurman attorney Kevin Watson, who is representing Wolff, declined to comment for the story.