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Mohat v. Horvath

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District

September 30, 2013

WILLIAM MOHAT, ON HIS OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF ERIC MOHAT, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
THOMAS M. HORVATH, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES. Defendant-Appellant.

Civil Appeal from the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 12CV001481.

Kenneth D. Myers, For Plaintiffs-Appellees.

David Kane Smith, Lindsay Ferg Gingo, and Krista K Kleim, Britton, Smith, Peters & Kalail Co.For Defendant-Appellant

OPINION

CYNTHIA WESTCOTT RICE, J.

(¶1} Appellant, Thomas M. Horvath, appeals the judgment of the Lake County Court of Common Pleas denying his motion to dismiss the complaint of appellees, William Mohat and Janis Mohat. The Mohats' complaint asserted claims for damages resulting from their minor son, E.M.'s, commission of suicide as a result of the failure of Horvath, E.M.'s high school teacher, to protect E.M. from bullying and harassment in Horvath's class by other students. At issue is whether the complaint stated claims on which relief could be granted. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

(¶2} The following statement of facts is based on the allegations in the Mohats' complaint. They alleged that E.M. was 17 years old and a student at Mentor High School in 2007, when he committed suicide. For several months before E.M.'s death, he was constantly bullied and harassed by several other students. They engaged in unrelenting name-calling, teasing, and verbal harassment. They called E.M. vile and degrading names that were sexual in nature, such as "fag, " "queer, " and "homo." These students also repeatedly pushed, shoved, and hit E.M.

(¶3} The Mohats alleged that Horvath knew about this bullying and harassment directed against E.M. because most of it took place in Horvath's classroom during class and also because E.M. complained to Horvath about it.

(¶4} The complaint alleged that on the day E.M. committed suicide, another student taunted E.M., telling him in front of other students and also in front of Horvath, "Why don't you go home and shoot yourself? No one would miss you."

(¶5} Further, the complaint alleged that, prior to E.M.'s suicide, Horvath knew or should have known that another student at the high school had committed suicide as a result of bullying.

(¶6} The Mohats alleged that, despite Horvath's knowledge that E.M. was being regularly bullied and harassed, Horvath did nothing to stop it. He never intervened and never reported the bullying to school officials. The Mohats alleged that Horvath repeatedly failed to take any action over a period of time and that, due to his inaction, E.M. became so depressed that he committed suicide on March 27, 2007.

(¶7} The Mohats alleged that Horvath's conduct constituted negligence and/or gross negligence (Count I) and that his conduct was committed with malice, in bad faith, and was wanton and reckless (Count II). As a result, they suffered and continue to suffer extreme emotional distress and loss of the companionship of their son for which they prayed for an unspecified amount of damages.

(¶8} The Mohats filed the complaint on their own behalf and also on behalf of their son's estate. The complaint constituted a timely re-filing of a prior action they had filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, as Mohat v. Mentor Exempted Village School District, et al., Case No. 1:09 CV 688. The district court dismissed the claims filed by the Mohats on behalf of their son's estate with prejudice as barred by the statute of limitations. The district court also dismissed the federal claims asserted by the Mohats on their own behalf. However, declining to maintain supplemental jurisdiction over the Mohats' state law claims filed on their own behalf, which were the same as the claims they asserted against Horvath in the instant action, the district court dismissed the Mohats' state law claims without prejudice.

(¶9} 0Returning to the procedural history of the instant case, Horvath subsequently filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6), for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. He argued that the Mohats' claims filed on behalf of E.M.'s estate were time-barred and that, as to the claims filed on behalf of the Mohats, he was immune from liability under Ohio's political subdivision immunity law.

(¶10} The trial court granted Horvath's motion to dismiss the Mohats' claims filed on behalf of E.M.'s estate as barred by res judicata in light of the federal court's ruling that these claims were time-barred. However, as to the claims filed on the Mohats' behalf, the trial court denied Horvath's motion to dismiss, concluding the trial court could not find that the Mohats ...


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