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Dech-Noble v. Ammons

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

August 31, 2017

AIDEN DECH-NOBLE, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES
v.
CHRISTINE G. AMMONS, ET AL. DEFENDANTS[Appeal By Stefanie Richardson, Defendant-Appellant]

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-15-854435

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT L. Bryan Carr.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES Harvey Kugelman Harvey Kugelman Co., L.P.A.

          BEFORE: Boyle, J., McCormack, P.J., and S. Gallagher, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          MARY J. BOYLE, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Stefanie Richardson, appeals from an order of the trial court denying her motion for sanctions and attorney fees against plaintiffs-appellees, Aiden Dech-Noble ("Aiden"), a minor, and his father, Christopher Noble ("Noble"), after they voluntarily dismissed her from a civil lawsuit involving a dog- bite incident. Richardson raises one assignment of error for our review:

The trial court erred in denying the appellant's motion for attorney fees and sanctions pursuant to [Civ.R.] 11 and R.C. 2323.51.

         {¶2} For reasons that follow, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

         I. Facts Underlying Lawsuit

         {¶3} On June 29, 2014, Noble and his son, Aiden, were with their dog at a South Euclid dog park when another patron's dog bit Aiden in the face causing severe lacerations to his nose. Just before the incident, Noble was talking to Christine Ammons, who was at the park with her dog, as well as Richardson, who was also at the park with her two dogs. Immediately following the incident, the adults were confused as to which dog bit Aiden because none of the adults present directly witnessed the dog bite.

         {¶4} Noble and Ammons exchanged information and remained in contact by email while Aiden received treatment at the hospital. In an email exchange occurring on the same day as the incident, Ammons provided Noble with her dog's veterinarian records showing that her dog, Cliff, was up-to-date on his vaccinations. Noble thanked Ammons for being cooperative but noted that his son's injuries were quite severe and would require treatment by a plastic surgeon. The following day, Noble reported the dog bite to local police and filled out a "witness/victim statement." Noble also filled out an "animal bite report" with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. In both reports, Noble stated that Ammons's dog bit his son.

         {¶5} On July 16, 2014, South Euclid police filed a supplementary investigative report on the incident. In it, the officer investigating the case noted that Ammons contacted him and told him that she did not believe her dog was responsible for biting Aiden. Ammons further stated that there were several dogs around the boy when the bite occurred and that she was 90 percent sure that her dog did not bite him. Further, Ammons told the officer that her friend (presumably Richardson) was at the park with her and also did not believe it was Ammons's dog that bit Aiden either. The officer noted in the report that he asked Ammons to tell her friend that she needed to fill out a witness report.

         {¶6} On July 17, 2014, Ammons and Richardson provided written statements to the police regarding the incident. Although Ammons did not deny in her statement that her dog might have bitten Aiden, Ammons noted that Aiden pointed to several dogs, including his own dog as the biter, right after the event occurred. According to Ammons's statement, she gave Noble her dog's vaccination records because they could not rule out which dog (either hers or the Noble's family dog) had bitten Aiden.

         {¶7} Richardson noted in her statement that all three adults were talking when the bite occurred. By the time Aiden began crying and they noticed his injury, he was surrounded by all four dogs, which were of similar size and color. When Noble asked his son which dog bit him, his son pointed to Ammons's dog. Noble questioned his son as to whether it was one of Richardson's dogs, but according to Richardson, both she and Ammons told Noble that it could not have been Richardson's dogs because they were sitting next to Richardson when the bite occurred. Richardson further stated that she doubted Ammons's dog bit Aiden because Ammons's dog was used to children. Ammons further noted that the Noble's ...


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