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Struckman v. Board of Education of Teays Valley Local School District

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Pickaway

March 27, 2017

MICHAEL STRUCKMAN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF TEAYS VALLEY LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

          Richard T. Ricketts, Ricketts Co., LPA, Pickerington, Ohio, for appellant.

          Victoria A. Flinn and Sue W. Yount, Bricker & Eckler LLP, Columbus, Ohio, for appellees.

          DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY

          Marie Hoover, Judge

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Michael Struckman ("Struckman"), appeals the judgment of the Pickaway County Common Pleas Court dismissing his action against defendants-appellees (collectively "Teays Valley") for breach of the parties' 2004 real estate purchase contract. In 2004, Struckman agreed to sell nearly 70 acres of property to Teays Valley. Struckman filed the complaint against Teays Valley alleging that Teays Valley violated the parties' purchase contract by failing to abide by the representation that they would use the property for a site to build a new school. In response, Teays Valley filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6). The trial court granted the motion.

         {¶ 2} On appeal, Struckman presents two assignments of error. In both assignments of error, Struckman contends that the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6). Struckman contends that he agreed to sell the property to Teays Valley below market value based on the material representations that the property would be used for a "School Site" and that he would have a right to continue to farm the property until such time that a school was developed on the property. However, a specific provision that Teays Valley must use the property to build a school is not contained in the parties' purchase contract. The purchase contract does contain a provision that allowed Struckman to continue farming the property until Teays Valley began construction on the property or occupied a portion of the property "in connection with its intended use thereof."

         {¶ 3} Struckman argues that the phrase "its intended use" is ambiguous within the contract and that the phrase refers to Struckman's alleged representation by Teays Valley that they would use the property to build a new school. Struckman argues that since this phrase is ambiguous, extrinsic evidence should be examined in order for the trial court to understand the intention of the parties.

         {¶ 4} We do not agree with Struckman. We find that the parties' purchase contract, specifically the phrase, "its intended use", to be unambiguous. Because the phrase is unambiguous, and because the parties' purchase contract does not contain a provision requiring Teays Valley to use the property to build a school, Struckman's claims for breach of contract are usurped by the contract. Accordingly, the trial court properly dismissed Struckman's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, pursuant to Civ.R. 12(B)(6).

         {¶ 5} For those reasons and the reasons more fully discussed below, Struckman's assignments of error are overruled. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 6} In May 2004, Struckman and Teays Valley executed a written purchase contract ("purchase contract"), wherein Teays Valley purchased approximately 70 acres of real estate ("the property") from Struckman for $10, 400. The parties agreed that Struckman would retain his right to farm the property. Paragraph 23 of the contract, in part, states: "* * * Furthermore, Seller shall be entitled to without charge from Buyer continue its Farming Activities on any part of the Real Estate purchased by Buyer until Buyer commences construction on any such portion of the Real Estate or otherwise must occupy said portion of the Real Estate in connection with its intended use thereof."

         {¶ 7} On July 21, 2015, Robin Halley, the superintendent of the Teays Valley Local School District, wrote a letter to Struckman to confirm the school district's intent to begin occupying the property and that Struckman's farming rights would terminate at the conclusion of the 2015 farming season. Halley also stated, "The District's plans include the construction of a small facility on the site in conjunction with its occupancy and use of the property for the District's student FFA organization and other potential school-related or extracurricular functions."

         {¶ 8} In March 2016, Struckman commenced this action by filing a complaint against the Board of Education of Teays Valley Local School District, the members of the school board in their representative capacity, and the superintendent of the school, individually and in his representative capacity. In his complaint, Struckman asserted the following counts against Teays Valley: breach of contract (Count One), specific performance (Count Two), declaratory relief (Count Three), injunctive relief (Count Four), and willful, wanton and knowing breach of contract (Count Five). In his complaint, Struckman asserted inter alia, the following background facts:

8.It was specifically and affirmatively represented to Mr. Struckman that the Real Estate was being purchased for use as a future school site ("School Site").
9.Mr. Struckman would not have sold the Real Estate or entered into a contract for its sale for a purpose other than the use of the Real Estate by [Teays Valley] for a School Site.
10.Mr. Struckman agreed to sell the Real Estate to [Teays Valley] at an amount less than its fair market value, based on two material considerations and representations by [Teays Valley]:
a. The Real Estate would be used for a School Site; and
b. Struckman would have the right to continue to farm the Real Estate, at no additional charge, until such time as a school was developed on the Real Estate (collectively, "Express Considerations and Representations").
11.Plaintiff, as seller, and [Teays Valley], as buyer, entered into a Real Estate Purchase Contract for the sale and purchase of ...

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