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R&A Lawn Care, LLC v. Back

Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton

June 21, 2017

R&A LAWN CARE, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
TIM BACK, and BACK TREE AND LANDSCAPE, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

         Civil Appeal From: Hamilton County TRIAL NO. 16CV-02452 Municipal Court Judgment Appealed From Is: Reversed and Cause Remanded

          Pamela S. Petas, for Plaintiff-Appellant,

          The Farrish Law Firm and Kathleen C. King, for Defendants-Appellees.

          OPINION

          MYERS, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-appellant R&A Lawn Care, LLC, ("R&A") has appealed from the trial court's decision finding that an oral contract did not exist between R&A and defendants-appellees Tim Back and Back Tree and Landscape, Inc., and awarding R&A $1, 800 for work that it had performed for the defendants.

         {¶2} In three assignments of error, R&A argues that the trial court erred in failing to find that the parties had an oral contract for lawn care services, in finding that R&A had failed to prove the sum owed for the lawn care services that it had provided, and in finding that the value of R&A's unpaid work was only $1, 800.

         {¶3} Because we find that the parties had entered into an oral contract for lawn care services, we reverse the trial court's judgment.

         Facts and Procedure

         {¶4} R&A filed a complaint against the defendants asserting claims for breach of an oral contract, payment on account, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment, and seeking monetary damages of $6, 333.55 plus interest for lawn care services that R&A, a lawn care company, had provided for the defendants.

         {¶5} During a trial to the bench on R&A's claims, the following testimony was presented. Ross Gottula, the owner of R&A, testified that he and Back had orally agreed that R&A would perform landscape work on property that Back owned in Indiana at a rate of $25 an hour. According to Gottula, Back had told him to keep track of the hours that his employees worked and to inform Back of those hours, and that Back would then pay him. Gottula testified that after R&A's employees performed work for Back, he would verbally inform Back of the number of hours of work that his employees had performed. If Back then requested an invoice, Gottula provided one. Back was typically slow at paying R&A for the work performed. Gottula explained that, in a given year, Back would pay R&A in the fall or following spring for work that had been performed the previous summer.

         {¶6} Gottula had requested payment from Back for 138 hours and ten minutes of work performed in 2013 and for 204 hours of work performed in 2014. Gottula introduced exhibits summarizing and documenting the time that his employees had spent working on Back's property in 2013 and 2014.

         {¶7} In July and September of 2014, Back Tree and Landscape issued Gottula a check for $1, 000. Back also gave Gottula $400 cash in September of 2014. Gottula credited these payments towards the amount that R&A had billed for work performed in 2013. The defendants made no further payments toward the remaining hours that R&A had billed for 2013 or the hours billed for 2014.

         {¶8} In November of 2015, a debt collector, on behalf of R&A, sent Back a letter requesting payment of $6, 333.55. Gottula explained that this amount equaled the total amount owed for the hours billed in 2013 and 2014, less the $2, 400 in payments that he had already received. The defendants sent a responsive letter stating, "I reviewed your letter and refuse to pay for services not rendered. No contract (agreement) of this nature has ever been submitted or signed. All invoices submitted were paid in full."

         {¶9} With respect to the services performed and the amount of hours billed, Gottula testified he had never offered to reduce his employees' hourly rate, and that Back had never complained about the work performed or questioned the hours that R&A had billed. Gottula additionally presented testimony from four of his employees who had performed work on Back's ...


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