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Columbus Truck & Equipment Co., Inc. v. L.O.G. Transportation, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 27, 2013

Columbus Truck & Equipment Company, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant,
v.
L.O.G. Transportation, Inc. et al., Defendants-Appellants/ Cross-Appellees.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Municipal Court No. 2010 CVF 029566.

Strip, Hoppers, Leithart, McGrath & Terlecky Co., L.PA., Paul W. Leithart, and Nicholas W. Reeves, for appellee.

Novak, Robenalt & Pavlik, L.L.P., and Thomas C. Pavlik, for appellants.

DECISION

BROWN, J.

{¶ 1} This is an appeal by defendants-appellants, L.O.G. Transportation, Inc. ("LOG Transportation"), Eagle Freight, and Kelly L. Hoban, from a judgment of the Franklin County Municipal Court awarding attorney fees to plaintiff-appellee, Columbus Truck & Equipment Company, Inc.

{¶ 2} In 2007, appellants LOG Transportation and Eagle Freight entered into a "short term lease agreement" with appellee, whereby appellee agreed to lease to appellants a commercial truck at a rate of $1, 150 per month, plus ten cents per mile. LOG Transportation and Eagle Freight leased the truck for three months, totaling 4, 505 miles on the vehicle.

{¶ 3} On July 27, 2010, appellee filed a complaint against appellants, alleging causes of action for breach of contract, personal liability, and fraud. The parties subsequently stipulated to an agreed judgment whereby appellee was granted judgment against LOG Transportation and Eagle Freight in the amount of $3, 419.49. Unresolved, however, was the issue of whether appellee was entitled to recover attorney fees.

{¶ 4} The matter was referred to a magistrate, who issued a decision on August 3, 2011, finding that appellee was entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees. On August 18, 2011, appellants filed objections to the magistrate's decision. On September 21, 2011, the trial court filed an entry finding the objections untimely and upholding the decision of the magistrate. Appellants filed a notice of appeal from the trial court's entry, but this court dismissed the appeal as premature. On February 23, 2012, the trial court conducted a hearing to determine the amount of attorney fees. By entry filed February 28, 2012, the trial court awarded attorney fees to appellee in the amount of $9, 511.

{¶ 5} On appeal, appellants set forth the following two assignments of error for this court's review:

[I.] The Trial Court erred by holding, in the face of the clear statutory language found in Ohio Revised Code § 1319.02 to the contrary, that attorney fees can be awarded in a commercial contract of indebtedness when the contract at issue is less than one hundred thousand dollars ($100, 000.00).
[II.] The Trial Court erred in awarding to the Plaintiff the sum of $9, 511.00 as attorney fees in the original matter herein as not being reasonable and was an abuse of discretion.

{¶ 6} Appellee has filed a cross-appeal, asserting the following assignment of error:

The Trial Court erred in failing to award Cross-Appellant attorney fees it incurred at the February 23, 2012 hearing to determine the amount and reasonableness of fees.

{¶ 7} At the outset, as determined by the trial court, we note that appellants' objections to the magistrate's decision were untimely. Pursuant to Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i), a party is required to file written objections to a magistrate's decision "within fourteen days of the filing of the decision." Appellants acknowledge that their objections were filed one day after the 14-day deadline, but argue that they should be deemed timely because they inadvertently mailed the objections to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court rather than the Franklin County Municipal Court. A court, however, ...


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