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Young v. Cincinnati Equine, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

May 16, 2017

THOMAS J. YOUNG, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CINCINNATI EQUINE, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTS TWO AND FOUR OF THE COMPLAINT

          Susan J. Dlott United States District Court

         This matter, a civil action between a thoroughbred horse owner and a veterinarian, is before the Court on the Motion of Defendants to Dismiss Counts Two and Four of the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. (Doc. 10.) Plaintiffs have filed a memorandum in opposition, to which Defendants have replied. (Docs. 18, 20.) For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion will be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         A. The Parties and the Hamilton County Action

         Plaintiff Thomas J. Young (“Young”), a resident of Naples, Florida, is engaged in the business of breeding and racing thoroughbred horses. (Complaint, Doc. 3 at PageID 4, 5 (¶¶ 1, 8, 9).) He owns these horses in his own name. (Id. at PageID 5 (¶ 10).) Through trainers, Young has conducted racing operations in both Kentucky and Ohio, specifically at Turfway Park in Florence and at River Downs-now known as Belterra Park-in Cincinnati. (Id. at PageID 5 (¶ 12).) Young is a member and the registered agent of Plaintiff Sandringham Farm, LLC (“Sandringham”) located in Georgetown, Kentucky. (Id. at PageID 4 (¶¶ 1, 2).)

         Defendant John A. Piehowicz, II (“Piehowicz”), a resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, is a veterinarian licensed to practice in Kentucky and Ohio. (Id. at PageID 4, 6 (¶¶ 4, 16).) He is a member and the registered agent for Defendant Cincinnati Equine, LLC (“Equine”). (Id. at PageID 6 (¶ 16).) Equine's principal business is providing equine veterinary medical services at training facilities and racetracks, largely at Turfway Park. (Id. at PageID 6 (¶¶ 17, 18).) At various times during the period 2006 to January 2008, Equine, through Piehowicz, provided services to Young's horses that were stabled and in training at Turfway Park. (Id. at PageID 7 ¶ 20).) Young denies being physically present when these services were provided. (Id. at PageID 7 (¶ 21).) He also denies any communications with Equine or Piehowicz regarding the terms of these services or authorizing anyone to act on his behalf to make any agreement regarding the terms of these services. (Id.)

         Equine periodically invoiced Sandringham (and not Young) for these services at its address in Georgetown. (Id. at PageID 7 (¶ 23).) Young disputed some of the services provided and the charges therefor and ultimately declined to pay the last invoice submitted by Equine in 2008. (Id. at PageID 8 (¶¶ 26-28).) Equine filed suit against Sandringham in the Hamilton County, Ohio Municipal Court in the matter captioned Cincinnati Equine, LLC v. Sandringham Farm, LLC, Case No. 08CV15831 (the “Hamilton County Action”). (Id. at PageID 8 (¶ 29); Doc. 3-1 at PageID 19-24.) The complaint in the Hamilton County Action relies upon an invoice that is not dated, but refers to services purportedly provided through February 25, 2008. (Doc. 3 at PageID 8 (¶ 30); Doc. 3-1 at PageID 24.) The total amount due on the invoice is $2, 142.45, which includes two “service charges” of $15.64 and $25.00. (Doc. 3-1 at PageID 24.)

         Although he owned the horses that received veterinary services, Young was not named a party to the Hamilton County Action. (Doc. 3 at PageID 9 (¶ 33); Doc. 3-1 at PageID 21.) In his status as a member of Sandringham, Young nonetheless tendered a pro se response to Equine's complaint in the Hamilton County Action, in which he denied the existence of any agreement between Equine and Sandringham regarding veterinary services as alleged. (Doc. 3 at PageID 9 (¶¶ 36, 37); Doc. 3-2 at PageID 26-28.) He also denied that the services were provided in Ohio as alleged. (Doc. 3 at PageID 9 (¶ 37).)

         At an early stage in the Hamilton County Action, Young tendered to Equine, through its counsel, a check drawn on a Sandringham account that was made payable to “Jackass Piehowicz” in the amount of $2, 101.81. (Doc. 3 at PageID 9 (¶ 39) and Doc. 3-3 at PageID 38.) This amount paid in full the charges for veterinary services but did not include the two “service charges.” (Doc. 3 at PageID 9 (¶ 39).) Neither Equine nor Piehowicz negotiated the check. (Id. at PageID 9 (¶ 40).)

         Eventually Equine filed motions both for default judgment[2] and summary judgment. (Id. at PageID 9 (¶ 41).) Young again tendered a pro se response of behalf of Sandringham, raising issues of personal jurisdiction. (Id. at PageID 10 (¶ 42); Doc. 3-3 at PageID 30-38.) Equine's motion for summary judgment nevertheless was granted on October 20, 2008. (Doc. 3 at PageID 10 (¶ 44); Doc. 3-4 at PageID 40.) Equine then naturalized the judgment in Bourbon County, Kentucky in February 2009 and filed a judicial lien against the real property comprising Sandringham Farm on March 27, 2009. (Doc. 3 at PageID 10 (¶ 45); Doc. 3-6 at PageID 42-45.) Equine also attempted to garnish Sandringham bank accounts in Ohio to satisfy the judgment. (Doc. 3 at PageID 10 (¶ 45).) Equine took no further actions to attempt to collect the judgment against Sandringham until August 2014, more than five years after these initial efforts. (Id. at PageID 10 (¶ 47).)

         B. The Racing Commission Complaint and the Hamilton County Action Appeal

         On August 4, 2014 Equine and Piehowicz filed a “Financial Responsibility” complaint against Young with the Ohio State Racing Commission (“OSRC”). (Id. at PageID 10 (¶ 48); Doc. 3-6 at PageID 47-52.) They enclosed the judgment from the Hamilton County Action as well as the lien against Sandringham Farm. (Doc. 3-6 at PageID 47-52.) Young, through counsel, requested a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds. (Doc. 3 at PageID 11 (¶ 54).) Young also, again through counsel, filed a motion to vacate the 2008 judgment in the Hamilton County Municipal Court. (Id. at PageID 11 (¶ 55).) He argued that the Ohio court lacked personal jurisdiction over Sandringham and, in any event, Sandringham was not the proper party defendant. (Id.)

         Following a hearing held in January 2015, the Hamilton County Municipal Court denied Young's motion. (Id. at PageID 11 (¶ 56).) He appealed. (Id. at PageID 12 (¶ 57).) On March 4, 2016, the Hamilton County, Ohio Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the cause to the trial court “to conduct an evidentiary hearing of the issue of whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Sandringham Farm is consistent with Ohio's long-arm statute and due process.” (Cincinnati Equine, LLC v. Sandringham Farm, LLC, No. C-150067 (Ohio Ct. App. 1st Dist., Mar. 4, 2016) (the “Hamilton County Action Appeal”)), Doc. 3-7 at PageID 54, 60 (¶ 19).) Thereafter Equine and Piehowicz withdrew their complaint lodged with the OSRC and that proceeding was dismissed on April 6, 2016. (Doc. 3 at PageID 12 (¶¶ 60, 61); Doc. 3-8 at PageID 62-64.) Equine then dismissed the Hamilton County Action on April 13, 2016 and released the lien against Sandringham Farm. (Doc. 3 at PageID 12 (¶¶ 62, 63).)

         C. ...


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