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Stafford & Stafford Co., L.P.A. v. Steele

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

September 19, 2013

STAFFORD & STAFFORD CO., L.P.A. PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
ROBERT J. STEELE, M.D. DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-552432

Joseph B. Rose, III Law Office of Joseph B. Rose ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT

Elliott S. Barrat, Gregory J. Moore Stafford Law Co., L.P.A. ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

BEFORE: Rocco, J., Boyle, P.J., and EA. Gallagher, J.

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

KENNETH A. ROCCO, J.

(¶ l} Defendant-appellant Robert J. Steele, M.D., appeals from two trial court orders, i.e., one that denied his Civ.R. 60(B) motion for relief from the 2005 default judgment entered against him in favor of plaintiff-appellee Stafford & Stafford Co., L.P.A., and another that denied his Civ.R. 52 motion for findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to the first order.

(¶ 2} Steele presents two assignments of error. He argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his Civ.R. 60(B) motion. He also argues that the trial court ignored its mandatory duty when it denied his Civ.R. 52 motion.

(¶ 3} Because Steele's notice of appeal in this case was untimely from the order that denied his Civ.R. 60(B) motion, this court lacks jurisdiction to address Steele's first assignment of error. Moreover, because the trial court had no duty to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding its decision to deny Steele's Civ.R. 60(B) motion, his subsequently-filed Civ.R. 52 motion did not serve to make his appeal timely, and, therefore, this court also lacks jurisdiction to consider Steele's second assignment of error. Consequently, this appeal is dismissed.

(¶ 4} A review of the facts serves to explain this court's decision. According to the App.R. 9(A) record, on January 19, 2005, Stafford & Stafford filed this action against Steele for his nonpayment of legal fees incurred during his divorce, which lasted nearly five years. After Stafford & Stafford obtained service on Steele, he failed to file an answer.

(¶ 5} Stafford & Stafford eventually sought a default judgment in the action. The trial court set the matter for a hearing and provided notice to Steele of the hearing, together with the notice that if he failed to appear, "judgment may be rendered against [him]." The record reflects Steele made no appearance. Thus, on August 23, 2005, following the hearing, the trial court granted a default judgment to Stafford & Stafford against him in the amount of $24, 612.21.

(¶ 6} On May 2, 2012, nearly seven years later, Steele filed a motion for relief from the default judgment. Steele asserted that: (1) he had never been properly served, therefore, he received notice of neither the action nor the default judgment hearing; (2) he had paid his legal fees to Stafford & Stafford "in full"; and (3) he was "first made aware" of the case "on or about April 16, 2012 by way of a Notice of Court Proceeding to Collect Debt" that was "sent" to him by Stafford & Stafford. Steele supported his motion with his affidavit.

(¶ 7} Stafford & Stafford filed a brief in opposition. Although the record reflects that the trial court set the matter for an oral hearing to be held on August 21, 2012, the record contains no indication that the hearing went forward.

(¶ 8} On December 31, 2012, the trial court issued an order that denied Steele's Civ.R. 60(B) motion.

(ΒΆ 9} On January 7, 2013, Steele filed a motion requesting the trial court to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law ...


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