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Brown v. Carlton Harley-Davidson, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District

September 19, 2013

BRUCE ANDREW BROWN, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
CARLTON HARLEY-DAVIDSON, INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-780833

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS John R. Conley Christina J. Marshall Lawrence A. Sutter Sutter O'Connell

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Bruce Andrew Brown, pro se B. Andrew Brown & Associates, L.L.C. Robert Smith, III

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

JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

MARY J. BOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE

(¶1} Defendants-appellants, Carlton Harley-Davidson, Inc., and Jane Carlton ("Carlton") (collectively "appellants"), appeal the judgment of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas that granted the Civ.R. 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss of plaintiffs-appellees, Bruce Andrew Brown ("Brown") and B. Andrew Brown & Associates, L.L.C. ("BABLLC") (collectively "appellees"). After a careful review of the record and relevant case law, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

I. Factual and Procedural History

(¶2} Since April 2010, appellees have filed three separate and overlapping complaints in the common pleas court that named appellants as defendants. The first suit filed by appellees against appellants was captioned Bruce Andrew Brown v. Suzanne Charlton, et al, Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-724016 (filed Apr. 13, 2010). The claims set forth in the first suit stemmed from the allegedly improper sale of a 2008 Harley-Davidson motorcycle to Carlton Harley-Davidson, Inc. The complaint specifically alleged that Carlton acted in concert with Brown's former wife, Suzanne Charlton, and wantonly, recklessly, and negligently tendered the proceeds from the sale of the motorcycle to his former wife instead of to BABLLC, the titled and legal owner of the motorcycle.

(¶3} On September 8, 2010, appellants filed a motion for summary judgment asserting res judicata as a bar to appellees' complaint, which was granted by the trial court on February 4, 2011. However, on appeal, this court reversed the judgment of the trial court, concluding that the doctrine of res judicata did not apply and that issues of material fact remained as to whether Brown's former wife could act under the authority of Brown's power of attorney to sell the motorcycle because it was the property of BABLLC. Brown v. Charlton, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 96430, 2011-Ohio-4958, | 15. Further, this court found that it was unclear and disputed as to whom the check proceeds should have been made payable. Id.

(¶4} While CV-724016 was on appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, appellees inappropriately filed a second complaint in the common pleas court on October 5, 2011, which was designated Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-766002. In their second complaint, appellees again named appellants as defendants and set forth allegations rooted in the same transaction at issue in the first complaint.

(¶5} Once CV-724016 was remanded to the trial court, appellants moved for consolidation of the first and second complaints, so as not to be forced to defend against the same lawsuit in two separate courts. The relevant trial courts agreed, and the cases were consolidated on February 17, 2012. After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of these consolidated cases, the trial court determined that Brown, in his personal capacity, lacked standing to assert any of the causes of actions set forth in either complaint. As such, by April 17, 2012, the trial court had dismissed all claims brought against appellants by Brown in his personal capacity.[1]

(¶6} Nevertheless, on April 19, 2012, appellees filed a third complaint in the common pleas court, which was designated Cuyahoga C.P. No. CV-780833. In their third complaint, appellees again attempted to set forth causes of action rooted in the same transaction on which the first two complaints were premised. In response to the filing of CV-780833, appellants filed a counterclaim requesting the trial court to designate appellees as vexatious litigators and award appellants appropriate relief, including attorney fees.

(¶ 7} On June 5, 2012, appellees filed a motion to dismiss appellants' counterclaim pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), arguing that the counterclaim failed to state a cognizable claim. While appellees' motion to dismiss was pending, appellants filed a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, arguing again that Brown lacked standing to assert any of the causes of action set forth in the third complaint. On August 31, 2012, the trial court granted appellants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings and dismissed all claims brought by Brown in his personal capacity. As a result of the trial court's judgment, appellees' only remaining claims in CV-780833 were those asserted by BABLLC. On September 17, 2012, BABLLC filed a voluntary dismissal of all remaining claims.

(¶8} On March 20, 2013, the trial court granted appellees' motion to dismiss appellants' counterclaim stating,

[appellees'] motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted, is granted because [appellants] failed to state allegations in their counterclaim which satisfy the statutory requirements of R.C. ...

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