Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Ohio
by
The case involves East Ohio Gas Company, doing business as Dominion Energy Ohio ("Dominion"), and J. William Vigrass, individually and as executor of Virginia Vigrass’s estate. Dominion had requested access to Virginia's residence to inspect the gas meter located inside. However, due to Virginia's immunocompromised state and susceptibility to COVID-19, she denied Dominion access. Despite her account being paid in full, Dominion disconnected its natural-gas service to Virginia’s residence in January 2022. The disconnection resulted in freezing temperatures inside the residence, causing the water pipes to burst and damage the property. Virginia was later found dead in her residence.In the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Vigrass sued Dominion on claims relating to the shutoff of its natural-gas service to Virginia’s residence. Dominion moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio had exclusive jurisdiction over the claims as they related to a service issue. However, Judge Peter J. Corrigan denied Dominion’s motion, reasoning that he had jurisdiction over the complaint because Vigrass had asserted common-law claims.Dominion then filed an original action in prohibition in the Supreme Court of Ohio, asserting that Judge Corrigan patently and unambiguously lacks jurisdiction over Vigrass’s action. Dominion sought an order to prevent Judge Corrigan from exercising jurisdiction and to vacate the orders he has issued in the underlying case.The Supreme Court of Ohio granted the writ of prohibition, ordering Judge Corrigan to cease exercising jurisdiction over the underlying case and directing him to vacate the orders that he had previously issued in the case. The court concluded that both parts of the test set forth in Allstate Ins. Co. v. Cleveland Elec. Illum. Co. were met, indicating that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio had exclusive jurisdiction over the case. The court also granted in part and denied in part Dominion's motion to strike certain parts of Vigrass's brief. View "State ex rel. E. Ohio Gas Co. v. Corrigan" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around Alphonso Mobley Jr., who filed a writ of mandamus against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, seeking a certified copy of a document in response to a public-records request. Mobley also sought statutory damages and court costs under R.C. 149.43(C). The document in question was the "Certified Bond of Director of Ohio Department of Rehabilitations and Corrections for year 2021-2022." Mobley had initially received an uncertified copy of the bond, and upon his second request, he enclosed a check for $5 for a certified copy. However, he alleged that the secretary had not responded to his request for a certified copy, leading him to file this action.The secretary's office sent Mobley a certified copy of the bond six business days after he filed the action. The secretary denied liability under the Ohio Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43 et seq., and stated that he had provided the requested record. The Supreme Court of Ohio granted an alternative writ and set a schedule for the parties’ submission of evidence and merit briefs.The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the mandamus claim was moot as the secretary had provided Mobley with a certified copy of the record he had requested. Mobley argued that the record was incomplete, but the court found no merit in his argument. The court also denied Mobley's request for statutory damages, stating that the failure to provide a certified copy within a reasonable time is not a failure to comply with an obligation under R.C. 149.43(B). The court also denied Mobley's claim for court costs, as he had filed an affidavit of indigency and therefore had no obligation to pay costs. View "State ex rel. Mobley v. LaRose" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around the appellant, Jeffery Woods, who filed a legal malpractice lawsuit in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The defendant in the lawsuit filed a motion to dismiss the suit. Woods then attempted to remove the lawsuit to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. However, a United States magistrate judge recommended denying Woods's petition for removal and remanding the matter back to the state court. The federal court eventually adopted this recommendation. Meanwhile, before the federal court had ruled on Woods's objections, Judge Heekin of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas granted the motion to dismiss Woods's legal malpractice lawsuit.Woods then filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus against Judge Heekin in the First District Court of Appeals, arguing that the common pleas court lacked jurisdiction over his legal malpractice lawsuit once he filed his notice of removal to federal court. He sought an order for Judge Heekin to vacate the judgment of dismissal. Judge Heekin filed a motion to dismiss Woods's mandamus complaint, arguing that Woods did not perform the necessary steps for effecting removal to federal court, and thus the common pleas court still had jurisdiction. The court of appeals dismissed Woods's mandamus complaint, but not for the reasons set forth in Judge Heekin’s motion. Instead, the court of appeals dismissed the complaint on the basis that “mandamus cannot be used to compel a particular ruling from a judge.”The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the court of appeals' judgment, but disagreed with its reasoning. The Supreme Court held that if Woods was correct that Judge Heekin patently and unambiguously lacked jurisdiction to dismiss the legal-malpractice action, a writ of mandamus would be an appropriate remedy. However, the Supreme Court found that Woods did not complete all the necessary steps for removal to federal court, and thus the common pleas court did not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction to dismiss the legal-malpractice action. Therefore, the dismissal of Woods's mandamus complaint was correct. View "State ex rel. Woods v. Heekin" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around a dispute over workers' compensation. The appellant, Brian Caldwell, was injured while working for the appellee, Whirlpool Corporation. After a successful initial workers’ compensation claim, Caldwell sought coverage for additional conditions a few years later. However, his claim for these additional conditions was denied after administrative hearings before the commission. Caldwell then appealed to a court of common pleas under R.C. 4123.512. The trial court and the court of appeals, in granting and affirming summary judgment in favor of Whirlpool, determined that Caldwell’s claim had expired as a matter of law because a separate statute, R.C. 4123.52, limited the commission’s continuing jurisdiction to five years from the date of the last payment of compensation on Caldwell’s initial claim and that five years had passed.The Supreme Court of Ohio disagreed with the lower courts' interpretation. The court held that when a workers’ compensation claimant perfects an appeal under R.C. 4123.512, the subsequent expiration of the commission’s five-year period of continuing jurisdiction under R.C. 4123.52 does not cause the claim that is pending in court to expire as a matter of law. The court reasoned that R.C. 4123.52, which establishes the continuing jurisdiction of the commission, does not affect R.C. 4123.512 court proceedings once they have been properly initiated. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the judgment of the Third District Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Caldwell v. Whirlpool Corp." on Justia Law

by
The case involves S.Y.C., who appealed the judgment of the Eighth District Court of Appeals dismissing her petition for writs of procedendo and mandamus against Judge Alison L. Floyd of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. S.Y.C. sought to compel rulings on motions pending before Judge Floyd, who was overseeing the child-custody cases involving S.Y.C., her former partner, and their two children. The Eighth District dismissed S.Y.C.’s petition as moot, finding that Judge Floyd had disposed of the motions.The case originated in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, and was transferred to Cuyahoga County in 2016. It involved multiple appeals, petitions for extraordinary writs, and affidavits of disqualification. S.Y.C. filed a petition for writs of procedendo and mandamus in the Eighth District, alleging that Judge Floyd had failed to rule on “at least seven” pending motions filed between April 2021 and August 2022. Judge Floyd filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that S.Y.C.’s petition was moot as the motions identified in S.Y.C.’s petition had been ruled on or withdrawn or were not a motion and therefore did not require a decision from the court.The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the Eighth District Court of Appeals’ judgment dismissing S.Y.C.’s petition for writs of procedendo and mandamus as moot. The court found that Judge Floyd had ruled on all the motions that were the subject of the petition, rendering moot S.Y.C.’s petition. The court also rejected S.Y.C.’s other arguments about Judge Floyd’s rulings, noting that S.Y.C. was essentially seeking an appellate review of Judge Floyd’s judgments, which is not the purpose of either procedendo or mandamus. View "State ex rel. S.Y.C. v. Floyd" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a divorce proceeding initiated by Jolene K. Makuch against John Makuch III in the Geauga County Common Pleas Court. Jolene represented herself, stating she could not afford representation. After the trial, the magistrate noted that Jolene had failed to provide evidence regarding the division of marital property, spousal or child support, or attorney fees. The magistrate ordered a hearing for the parties to present additional evidence on these matters. John objected to the magistrate's decision, challenging the order for a hearing to present additional evidence.The Common Pleas Court, presided over by Judge Carolyn J. Paschke, overruled John's objections and adopted the magistrate's decision. The court noted that the parties had failed to present sufficient evidence at trial regarding the nature, extent, and value of the marital property, their income, and debts. The court set a future hearing date for the parties to present complete evidence on these matters. John appealed this decision to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals.The Court of Appeals dismissed John's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, determining that Judge Paschke's entry was not a final order under R.C. 2505.02(B). The court explained that in a divorce action, no final appealable order exists until all issues relating to property division, support, and parental rights and responsibilities have been addressed. John then appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio.The Supreme Court of Ohio declined to accept jurisdiction in this discretionary appeal filed on behalf of John. The court found the appeal to be frivolous, as it was neither warranted by existing law nor supported by a good-faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law. The court denied John's motions for clarification and for leave to file a supplemental brief. The court also declined to impose sanctions on John's counsel, who had previously been declared to be vexatious litigators. View "Makuch v. Makuch" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed a decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeals concerning the right to a jury trial in a civil case. The case arose from a dispute between the Estate of Tomlinson and Mega Pool Warehouse, Inc., regarding the installation of a swimming pool and a deck. The plaintiff, Tomlinson, filed a lawsuit and demanded a jury trial, paying a $500 jury deposit as required by a local rule. Later, Tomlinson withdrew her request for a jury trial, but Mega Pool still wanted a jury trial.The trial court and the Fifth District Court of Appeals held that Mega Pool had waived its right to a jury trial because it had not paid a $500 jury deposit, as required by the local rule. The Supreme Court of Ohio disagreed, ruling that the local rule did not require each party seeking a jury trial to pay a separate deposit. The court also held that, under Civ.R. 38(D), a party may not unilaterally withdraw a jury demand without the consent of all the parties.The court noted that Tomlinson's attempt to withdraw her jury demand without Mega Pool's consent violated Civ.R. 38(D). As such, the court reversed the judgment of the Fifth District Court of Appeals and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Tomlinson v. Mega Pool Warehouse, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In the case before the Supreme Court of Ohio, the relator, Kimani Ware, an inmate, sought a writ of mandamus to compel the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (“ODRC”), Trumbull Correctional Institution (“TCI”), and several of its employees, to respond to six of his public-records requests, and to award him statutory damages and court costs.Concerning each of the six requests, the respondents argued that they were not required to provide the requested records because Ware did not identify them as formal public-records requests. The court disagreed, stating that the Public Records Act does not require a requester to formally label a request as a “formal public records request”.Regarding the May 29, 2021 and October 6, 2021 requests, the court denied Ware's writ and the request for statutory damages, as the respondents had provided evidence that they provided the requested records. However, for the June 3, 2022 and June 19, 2022 requests, the court granted the writ and awarded Ware $1,000 in statutory damages for each request, as the respondents did not provide the requested documents.As for the June 5, 2022 and July 23, 2022 requests, the writ and the request for statutory damages were denied since Ware did not submit these two requests to the proper records custodians.Lastly, the court denied respondents’ motion to declare Ware a vexatious litigator, stating that respondents had not shown that Ware has “habitually, persistently, and without reasonable cause engage[d] in frivolous conduct". View "State ex rel. Ware v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. & Corr." on Justia Law

by
This case involves a dispute over a public records request made by the relator, Thomas Clark, an inmate at Lebanon Correctional Institution. Clark sent a request to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) for an up-to-date paper copy of the commissary price list for each commissary window at the prison. After several failed attempts to obtain the information through internal procedures, and despite an assurance from an inspector that he would provide the requested lists, Clark had still not received the paper copies. He therefore filed a mandamus action to compel the ODRC to provide the records.The Supreme Court of Ohio denied the writ of mandamus as moot because the ODRC had already provided Clark with the records he requested. However, the court found that the ODRC had failed to comply with its obligations under Ohio's Public Records Act, R.C. 149.43, for 11 business days starting from the day Clark filed the mandamus action. Accordingly, the court awarded Clark $1,000 in statutory damages, the maximum amount allowed under the statute. The court declined to award court costs, finding no evidence of bad faith on the part of the ODRC. View "State ex rel. Clark v. Dept. of Rehab. & Corr." on Justia Law

by
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio State University suspended in-person instruction, transitioned to virtual learning, restricted campus access, and provided limited refunds to students. Brooke Smith, a student at the university, filed a class-action lawsuit against the university, alleging breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and conversion. Smith argued that students had lost the benefits of their education without sufficient refunds.The Supreme Court of Ohio considered whether discretionary immunity, which shields the state from lawsuits for certain highly discretionary decisions, was a jurisdictional bar or an affirmative defense to suits brought against the state. The court held that discretionary immunity was indeed a jurisdictional bar, not an affirmative defense. This means that when the state makes highly discretionary decisions, such as its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction as the state has not waived its sovereign immunity for those decisions.However, the court noted that discretionary immunity is not absolute and does not extend to the negligent actions of the state's employees and agents in the performance of these activities. The court reversed the judgment of the Tenth District Court of Appeals, which had found that discretionary immunity was an affirmative defense, and remanded the case back to that court to determine whether Ohio State University was protected by discretionary immunity in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. View "Smith v. Ohio State Univ." on Justia Law