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Thomas v. Ohio Department of Mental Health

Court of Claims of Ohio

August 16, 2017

LINDA THOMAS, Admr. Plaintiff
v.
OHIO DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH Defendant

          Sent to SC. Reporter 9/8/17

          Anderson M. Renick Magistrate

          DECISION

          PATRICK M. MCGRATH, JUDGE

         {¶1} Before the court are written objections filed on July 10, 2017 by plaintiff Linda Thomas, administrator of the estate of Brian Burkett, Jr., deceased, to Magistrate Anderson M. Renick's decision of June 23, 2017 recommending judgment in favor of defendant Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH). Upon review, the court finds no error of law or other defect evidence on the face of Magistrate Renick's decision.

         {¶2} Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b) pertains to objections to a magistrate's decision. Under Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i), a party may file written objections to a magistrate's decision within fourteen days of the filing of the decision, whether or not a court has adopted the decision during that fourteen day period. According to Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(c), if no timely objections are filed, a court may adopt a magistrate's decision, unless it determines that there is an error of law or other defect evident on the face of the magistrate's decision.

         {¶3} Here, Thomas did not timely file written objections to Magistrate Renick's decision and, when Thomas filed her objections, she failed to follow procedural requirements contained in Civ.R. 5 because she did not attach a certificate of service with her objections or separately file proof of service with the court, which under Ohio law, is tantamount to a failure to file objections. And, even if Thomas had timely filed written objections, her objections generally do not comport with requirements contained in Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(ii) that require an objection to be specific and state with particularity all grounds for an objection.

         I. Background

         {¶4} On May 13, 2015, Thomas sued ODMH, alleging claims of wrongful death, loss of consortium, and negligent infliction of emotional distress stemming from the death of Brian Burkett, Jr., who before he died, had been hospitalized at the Timothy B. Moritz Forensic Unit at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare. After Thomas filed her complaint, the court appointed attorney Anderson M. Renick as a magistrate in the cause without limitation of authority specified in Civ.R. 53(C), and it directed that objections to the magistrate's decision, if any, were required to be filed as provided in Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b).

         {¶5} A trial pertaining to the issue of liability was held on November 7, 2016. After the trial, a transcript of the proceedings was filed in the court. On June 23, 2017, Magistrate Renick rendered a decision wherein he recommended the issuance of a judgment in favor of ODMH. Seventeen days later-on July 10, 2017-Thomas, through her counsel, filed written objections to Magistrate Renick's decision, without including completed proof of service. On July 17, 2017, ODMH filed a response to Thomas's objections.

         II. Thomas did not timely file written objections to Magistrate Renick's decision. And Thomas did not attach a certificate of service with her objections or separately file proof of service with the court, which, under Ohio law, is tantamount to a failure to file objections.

         {¶6} Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b) pertains to objections to a magistrate's decision. According to Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i), a party "may file written objections to a magistrate's decision within fourteen days of the filing of the decision, whether or not the court has adopted the decision during that fourteen-day period as permitted by Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(e)(i)." And if any party timely files objections, any other party "may also file objections not later than ten days after the first objections are filed." Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i). Civ.R. 53(D)(3)(b)(i) does not expressly permit a party to file a response to another party's objections.

         {¶7} Civ.R. 53(D)(4) pertains to a court's action on a magistrate's decision. According to Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(c), "[i]f no timely objections are filed, the court may adopt a magistrate's decision, unless it determines that there is an error of law or other defect evident on the face of the magistrate's decision." Compare Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(d) ("If one or more objections to a magistrate's decision are timely filed, the court shall rule on those objections"). Pursuant to Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(a), a magistrate's decision "is not effective unless adopted by the court."

         A. Thomas's objections are untimely.

         {¶8} Here, Magistrate Renick issued his decision on June 23, 2017 and the court's record indicates that a copy of Magistrate Renick's decision was sent to Thomas's counsel that same day. Thomas's objections were therefore due in this court by Friday, July 7, 2017-fourteen days after the filing of Magistrate Renick's decision. However, Thomas did not file her objections until July 10, 2017. Thus, Thomas's objections are untimely. Because Thomas's objections are untimely, in accordance with Civ.R. 53(D)(4)(c) this court may adopt Magistrate ...


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