Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case Nos. CV-740106 and CV-753315
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT William D. Moore
ATTORNEY AND LEGAL INTERNS FOR APPELLEE Andrew S. Pollis Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center C.W.R. U.School of Law
Ruchi Asher Emily Grannis James Thomas Legal Interns Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center C.W.R. U.School of Law
BEFORE: Celebrezze, J., Stewart, A.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, JR., J.:
(¶ 1} This cause came to be heard on the accelerated calendar pursuant to App.R. 11.1 and Loc.R. 11.1.
(¶2} Defendant-appellant, Process to Closing, L.L.C. ("appellant"), appeals the judgment of the trial court ordering it to pay attorney fees in the amount of $1, 000 as a discovery sanction pursuant to Civ.R. 37. On appeal, appellant argues that plaintiff-appellee, Kristel Wilkins, failed to meet her burden of proof in showing that attorney fees were necessary. For the reasons set forth herein, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.
I. Factual and Procedural History
(¶3} In April 2010, Wilkins retained the Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center ("the Clinic") to represent her in a dispute involving a home repair contract. The Clinic is operated by the Case Western Reserve University Law School. Students in the Clinic are certified legal interns representing low-income clients under the supervision of licensed attorneys. Although the Clinic agreed not to charge Wilkins any fees for her representation, her retainer agreement specifically contemplated the award of attorney fees from adverse parties, and Wilkins agreed to be responsible for paying other costs and expenses related to the case.
(¶4} On October 28, 2010, Wilkins filed her complaint against Sha'ste Incorporated and Steve Davis in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-740106, alleging damages arising out of a home-repair contract. On April 15, 2011, Wilkins filed a related complaint against defendants RBS Citizens National Association in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-753315 and later named appellant in an amended complaint. The cases were consolidated by the trial court on May 16, 2011.
(¶ 5} On August 19, 2011, Wilkins served appellant with discovery demands in the form of interrogatories, requests to produce, and demand for admissions. Appellant's responses were due on September 19, 2011. When appellant failed to timely respond to the discovery demands, Wilkins filed a motion to compel discovery and for sanctions pursuant to Civ.R. 37(A) on October 13, 2011. Wilkins supported her motion with the sworn affidavit of her attorney, Andrew S. Pollis. Appellant did not oppose that motion, and on November 22, 2011, the trial court granted Wilkins's motion, including an award of attorney fees in the sum of $1, 000 as a discovery sanction.
(¶6} On November 20, 2011, appellant moved the trial court to vacate its sanction order. On December 23, 2011, the trial court denied appellant's motion. After resolving her claims against all other defendants, Wilkins ...