Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
ELIZABETH AHERN WELLS, Atty., RONALD L. BURDGE, Atty.
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellee
D. MILLER, II, Atty. Attorney for Defendant-Appellant
1} Defendant-appellant, Star First 1 Financial, Inc.
("Star First"), appeals from a judgment of the
Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, which overruled Star
First's motion for relief from judgment. We conclude that
the trial court abused its discretion in finding that Star
First did not have a meritorious defense. The judgment of the
trial court will be reversed and the cause remanded for the
trial court to address, in the first instance, whether Star
First has met the remaining requirements for relief from
Facts and Course of Proceedings
2} On February 26, 2016, Konnor Whitehead commenced
an action in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court against
"Star First 1 Financial, Inc., dba Abby Auto Financial,
Inc., " alleging claims for relief based on the Ohio
Consumer Act, the Motor Vehicle Sales Rule, and fraud. Dkt.
1. Whitehead alleged that he purchased a 2013 Chevrolet Cruze
motor vehicle from Star First on September 2, 2015. After
purchasing the vehicle, Whitehead discovered that the vehicle
previously had been in a severe accident in which it
sustained frame damage. According to Whitehead, Star First
engaged in deceptive sales practices by providing a clean
Carfax to him, failing to disclose that the vehicle had
previously sustained damages and was declared a total loss,
and failing to disclose that a salvage and rebuilt title and
a not actual mileage title had been issued for the vehicle.
3} No answer was filed within the time provided by
rule. On April 14, 2016, Whitehead filed a motion for default
judgment. Dkt. 10. On April 18, 2016, the trial court granted
the motion and entered a default judgment on the issue of
liability against Star First. Dkt. 11. On April 28, 2015, an
answer was filed apparently on behalf of Abby Auto Financial,
Inc. ("Abby Auto"). Dkt. 12. The trial court
granted Whitehead's motion to strike this answer, because
the pleading was filed by a non-attorney on behalf of a
corporation. Dkt. 15. On July 15, 2016, following a damages
hearing, the trial court entered judgment in favor of
Whitehead against Star First in the amount of $44, 877.00,
plus court costs and interest. Dkt. 17. No appeal was taken
from this judgment.
4} On August 21, 2016, Star First, through counsel,
filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Civ.R.
60(B). Dkt. 24. Whitehead filed a memorandum in opposition to
the motion. Dkt. 28. On October 31, 2016, the trial court
denied First Star's motion. Dkt. 30. Star First appeals
from this decision overruling its motion for relief from
Trial Court Abused Its Discretion In Overruling Star
First's Motion For Relief From Judgment Based On A
Finding That Star First Did Not Present A Meritorious Defense
5} Star First's sole assignment of error states:
TRIAL COURT ERRED BY DENYING THE APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR
RELIEF FROM JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO CIV.R. 60(B).
6} Civ.R. 60(B) permits a court to grant a party
relief from a final judgment. To prevail under Civ.R. 60(B),
the movant must satisfy a three-prong test. The moving party
must show that "(1) the party has a meritorious defense
or claim to present if relief is granted; (2) the party is
entitled to relief under one of the grounds stated in Civ. R.
60(B)(1) through (5); and (3) the motion is made within a
reasonable time." GTE Automatic Electric v.
Arc Industries, 47 Ohio St.2d 146, 150-151, 351 N.E.2d
113 (1976). "Motions for relief from judgment under
Civ.R. 60(B) are addressed to the sound discretion of the
trial court, and the court's ruling 'will not be
disturbed on appeal absent a showing of abuse of
discretion.' " Jackson v. Hendrickson, 2d
Dist. Montgomery No. 21921, 2008-Ohio-491, ¶ 28, quoting
Griffey v. Rajan, 33 Ohio St.3d 75, 77, 514 N.E.2d
7} The trial court found that Star First failed to
satisfy the first prong of the GTE test: that Star
First had a meritorious defense or claim to present if relief