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Huffer v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

October 3, 2013

Roy H. Huffer, III, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
James Wilmore Brown, Defendant-Appellee.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, C.P.C. No. 10CV-9305

Roy H. Huffer, III, pro se.

Reminger Co., LPA, Gregory D. Brunton and Zachary B. Pyers, for appellee.

DECISION

O'GRADY, J.

(¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Roy H. Huffer, III, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, James Wilmore Brown. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

(¶ 2} On June 22, 2010, appellant, acting pro se, filed a complaint alleging appellee committed legal malpractice while representing him in a divorce action. Appellant further alleged appellee's actions caused him duress throughout the divorce proceedings. In his answer, appellee asserted a counterclaim for legal fees and attached a fee agreement signed by both parties. Appellant responded to appellee's counterclaim and denied he owed appellee "any valid fees." (R. 18, at 9.)

(¶ 3} On September 23, 2011, appellee filed a motion for summary judgment arguing he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on appellant's malpractice claim. In his October 20, 2011 memorandum contra, appellant provided an affidavit from his father, attorney Roy H. Huffer, to support his malpractice claim. Mr. Huffer asserted appellee "showed a stubborn and willful attitude resulting in reckless disregard of [appellant's] best interests in his handling of [appellant's] divorce action." (R. 25, exhibit C.) He also indicated his willingness to serve as an expert witness for appellant's malpractice claim.

(¶ 4} On November 28, 2011, the trial court issued a decision and entry granting appellee's motion for summary judgment. The court acknowledged appellant's arguments and his father's affidavit, and determined appellant did not meet his burden of demonstrating malpractice. The court found there was no evidence appellee acted unreasonably while representing appellant, or that his legal representation affected the settlement value of the divorce case. The court addressed appellant's duress allegations by finding he did not allege illegal or unlawful conduct on the part of appellee, nor did he provide any legal authority to support his position.

(¶ 5} On December 28, 2011, appellant filed an appeal from the November 28, 2011 decision. This court dismissed that appeal because appellee's counterclaim for legal fees was still pending before the trial court, and the November 28, 2011 decision did not contain Civ.R. 54(B) language. Thus, we lacked a final appealable order.

(¶ 6} Once back in the trial court, appellee filed a motion for summary judgment regarding his claim for unpaid fees on July 27, 2012. Appellee argued he billed appellant for a reasonable number of hours worked at the hourly rate specified in their mutually executed fee agreement. Appellee further asserted appellant did not dispute the reasonableness of the rate or the hours expended, nor did he allege appellee billed for hours he did not work. Instead, appellant refused to pay the fees based on his malpractice allegations. Because the trial court had already determined appellee did not commit malpractice, appellee asserted he was entitled to recover his legal fees. Appellant filed a memorandum contra on September 17, 2012, but the trial court struck it from the record for being untimely.

(¶ 7} On November 29, 2012, the trial court granted appellee's July 27, 2012 motion for summary judgment and found no genuine issue of material fact regarding appellant's liability to appellee for the outstanding fees and, thus, ordered appellant to pay appellee the balance plus interest. It is from that judgment appellant now appeals to this court.

II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

(¶ 8} Appellant presents the following assignment of error for this ...


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