The plaintiff, a small restaurant, was a tenant in a shopping mall. Under a provision in the restaurant’s lease, the mall itself was responsible for collecting and disposing of the restaurant’s waste. However, over a period of 4 years, the restaurant’s owner received invoices from an outside waste company-the defendant. The owner kept on paying the invoices believing that the waste was being removed by this company. However, after a few years, the restaurant’s owner found out that the mall itself had been collecting and disposing of the waste, and it did not hire the outside company to do so.
The owner had no reason to question the invoices sent by the outside garbage company, as the invoices contained very detailed statements of charges, including the address and location for service, the size of the waste containers being picked up, and even the amount of fuel surcharge for the particular garbage truck used to haul the waste.
It turns out that the invoices were fraudulent. The outside garbage company never even set foot in the restaurant’s property to haul their waste. The outside garbage company collected nearly $20,000 from the restaurant. The waste company, a subsidiary of a very large national and international waste collection company, claimed that it was a mistake.
On behalf of the restaurant, we sued the waste collection company alleging violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. After a few months of litigation, the case settled in mediation for an amount several times the total amount of the invoices plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.