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Eric Heiland v. Timothy Smith

January 22, 2013

ERIC HEILAND APPELLANT
v.
TIMOTHY SMITH, ET AL. APPELLEES



APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 10CV168480

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Belfance, Judge.

Cite as Heiland v. Smith,

ss:

DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

{¶1} Eric Heiland appeals the trial court's award of summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

{¶2} Mr. Heiland retained Timothy Smith to represent him in his divorce proceedings. It is undisputed that communication problems plagued the attorney-client relationship, though neither party agrees who was responsible for the problems. Mr. Heiland filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Smith had committed malpractice while representing him. He also named Mr. Smith's law firm, Smith and Smith Attorneys, as a co-defendant.

{¶3} Issues arose during the discovery process, leading to the defendants filing a motion to compel discovery, which the trial court granted. Despite this order, however, Mr. Heiland failed to respond to the defendants' requests for discovery, and the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case. The trial court granted the motion in part, ordering Mr. Heiland to pay the defendants' attorney fees, but the court denied the defendants' request to dismiss the case.

{¶4} On March 2, 2011, prior to defendants filing their motion to dismiss, Mr. Heiland served the defendants with a request for admissions to be answered by March 30, 2011. In that request, Mr. Heiland asked Mr. Smith to admit that he breached the applicable standard of care. However, the defendants did not timely respond to Mr. Heiland's request, although responses were submitted after the response deadline.

{¶5} The defendants moved for summary judgment on August 31, 2011, and attached an affidavit from Mr. Smith to their motion. In his affidavit, Mr. Smith averred that his conduct during his time representing Mr. Heiland did not fall beneath the standard of care. The defendants argued that summary judgment was proper because Mr. Heiland had failed to obtain an expert opinion supporting his claim that Mr. Smith's actions had fallen beneath the standard of care. Mr. Heiland filed a response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, arguing that an expert opinion was unnecessary in light of Mr. Smith's admission that he breached the standard of care.

{¶6} The defendants subsequently filed a reply brief in support of their motion for summary judgment and a motion to withdraw or amend their admissions. Mr. Heiland opposed the defendants' motion, arguing that granting the defendants' motion would prejudice him given that discovery was closed and a motion for summary judgment was pending. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to amend the answers and ordered that it would "accept Defendants' Answers to Plaintiff's Request for Admissions as timely produced." It also immediately granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn1

{¶7} Mr. Heiland has appealed, raising three assignments of error for our review. For ease of discussion, we have consolidated his first and second assignments of error.

II.

ASSIGNMENT OF ...


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