Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler
MICHAEL L. LAKE, Plaintiff-Appellee,
LEE C. LOVE, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff-Appellant,
MICHELLE LAKE, Third-Party Defendant-Appellee.
APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No.
Michael and Michelle Lake, plaintiff-appellee and third-party
defendant-appellee, pro se
Miller, Mark W. Raines, Baden & Jones Bldg., for
1} Defendant/third-party plaintiff-appellant, Lee C.
Love, appeals from a judgment entered after a bench trial in
the Butler County Court of Common Pleas in favor of
plaintiff- appellee, Michael L. Lake, and third-party
defendant-appellee, Michelle Lake (collectively, "the
Lakes") on claims of conversion made by Michael and by
Love. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment
of the trial court.
2} Michelle and Michael are husband and wife.
Michelle and Love are half-siblings, who share the same
father. After Michelle's mother passed away in the
mid-1990s, Love was put on the deed to the property that
Michelle's mother and Michelle's and Love's
father shared in Hamilton, Butler County, Ohio. This property
contained a house and a large pole barn.
3} In June 2003, Michelle and Love's father
passed away, and the property passed to Love. At the time of
his death, Michelle and Love's father was the only
individual living in the home. Love, however, had personal
items stored inside the pole barn on the property.
4} Love and the Lakes reached an agreement wherein
the Lakes would lease the home from Love with the goal of
later purchasing the property. Love, with help from Michael,
made some renovations to the home. Love spent around $15, 000
to make the improvements. By January 2004, the Lakes moved
into the home. The parties later entered into a written
month-to-month lease for the property, which was backdated by
the parties. The lease agreement did not provide Love with
any right to occupy the property during the term of the
lease. Nonetheless, Love believed he retained possession of
the pole barn.
5} Around July 2003, Love purchased a Craftsman lawn
mower.  The Lakes claimed Love gifted the lawn
mower to them and that they exclusively used the lawn mower
to mow the property. Love acknowledged that the Lakes
exclusively used the mower after they moved into the
property's home, but he claimed he did not "give it
to [them] to possess it."
6} While the Lakes leased the property from Love,
Love stored personal items in the pole barn, including a 1992
Rinker V260 boat and a 1996 Kawasaki jet ski. Then, in the
winter of 2009, without any discussion with the Lakes, Love
began to reside in his boat inside the pole barn. Love, with
help from Michael, made certain improvements to the pole barn
to make it habitable, including adding insulation, heating
and air conditioning, and plumbing for the installation of a
shower, sink, and toilet. In the summer of 2012, Love
purchased a small, wooden storage shed and had it installed
on the property so that the Lakes would have something to
store their personal belongings in as Love was still residing
in the pole barn.
7} The Lakes purchased the property from Love near
the end of April 2013. Less than a month later, in May 2013,
the Lakes asked Love to pay $250 a month in rent for his use
of the pole barn to defray the cost of the utilities he used.
This request resulted in discord between the parties, and
Michael ended up placing a note on Love's refrigerator
asking him to vacate the property. Ultimately, the parties
reached an agreement whereby Love would vacate the property
but would be permitted to leave his personal items in the
pole barn until he completed construction of a pole barn on
another piece of property. The Lakes believed they had agreed
to store Love's items for three months while the pole
barn was being constructed, whereas Love believed the
time-period to complete construction of his new pole barn
while storing items in the Lakes' pole barn was open
8} Love vacated the Lakes' pole barn on June 6,
2013, leaving his boat, jet ski, furniture, tools, and other
items behind. In August 2013, Love returned to the property
and removed some items stored in the pole barn. Among the
items removed by Love were tools and the Craftsman lawn
mower. Love's boat and jet ski remained in the pole barn.
9} The Lakes disputed that the items removed by Love
belonged to him. The parties began quarreling over the
ownership of the items Love removed. Love sent numerous
disparaging text messages to Michelle and was eventually
charged and convicted of telecommunications harassment in
December 2014 in the Butler County Area II Court. Thereafter,
communications between the parties occurred through their
10} In September or October 2014, the Lakes moved
the items belonging to Love out of the pole barn and either
into Love's boat or into the wooden storage shed so that
they could begin using the pole barn. The Lakes then moved
Love's boat and jet ski outside. The Lakes covered the
boat and jet ski, but neither item was winterized. Love
became aware that the boat and jet ski had been moved
outdoors no later than November 17, 2014, when he came to the
property to remove more of his belongings. This date marked
the first big snowstorm of the season, and, due to the
weather, the police officer supervising Love's removal of
his belongings would not permit Love to drive his vehicle
into the yard to hook up his boat. Additionally, the officer
only allowed Love 25 to 30 minutes to collect his items,
which was insufficient for Love to remove all of his items.
Consequently, Love left his boat, jet ski, and other personal
11} Love did not ask the Lakes if the boat and jet
ski had been winterized; nor did he provide instructions on
how to winterize the items. Rather, he assumed that the Lakes
had properly winterized his boat and jet ski before moving
them outside because ...