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Ruiz v. City of Brecksville

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 21, 2017

TAMI RUIZ PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF BRECKSVILLE DEFENDANT-APPELLEE

         Civil Appeal from the Garfield Heights Municipal Court Case No. CVH 1600472

          FOR APPELLANT Tami Ruiz, pro se.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE David J. Matty City of Brecksville Law Director BY: Sergio I. DiGeronimo City Prosecutor/ Assistant Law Director City of Brecksville.

          BEFORE: E.T. Gallagher, J., McCormack, P.J., and Jones, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN T. GALLAGHER, J.

         {¶1} In this administrative appeal, plaintiff-appellant, Tami Ruiz, pro se, appeals a judgment of the Garfield Municipal Court designating her dog a "dangerous dog" under the Brecksville Codified Ordinances. She raises four assignments of error:

1. The trial court erred when it denied plaintiff-appellant's appeal to the Garfield Heights Municipal Court to dismiss the city of Brecksville's dangerous dog determination, overruling Ruiz's objections to the magistrate's decision, and denied Ruiz's motion for stay because the city of Brecksville presented inadequate evidence as a matter of law to convict Ruiz. The dangerous dog determination is a violation of Ruiz's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I of the Ohio Constitution. Specifically, the city of Brecksville could not prove the dog in question (Trucks) bit Ruiz. Ruiz's undisputed testimony established that she was bitten by the defendant's witness's dog, Bosley, that the bite occurred on premises not controlled by Ruiz, that the dog was not provoked by the neighbor's dog (Bosley McKay), and that the city's only witness (Lisa McKay) at the incident was truthful in her testimony.
2. The trial court erred when rendering findings of facts and conclusions of law, as a matter of facts from the hearing and testimonies. These findings of facts and conclusions of law led to the dangerous dog ruling. The facts and conclusions had multiple errors, including length of residency, amount of time with partner, type of fence, "multiple bites, " and some small misheard comments not supported by testimony.
3. The trial court erred in failing to stay the judgment against Ruiz. Ruiz's trial counsel objected to the magistrate's findings of facts with a motion to dismiss and a motion to stay, where the undisputed testimony indicated that Bosley bit Ruiz.
4. The trial court erred by failing to apply provisions of city of Brecksville ordinances that require lack of provocation in making the dangerous dog determination.

         {¶2} We find no merit to the appeal and affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶3} In December 2015, the Brecksville Animal Control Officer determined that three of Ruiz's dogs were "dangerous dogs" as defined by Brecksville Codified Ordinances ("B.C.O.") 505.17(a)(1). The Brecksville Animal Appeals Board affirmed the determinations, and Ruiz appealed the board's decision to the Garfield Heights Municipal Court, where the court held a de novo hearing on the issue.

         {¶4} At the de novo hearing, Lisa McKay, a Brecksville resident who lives next door to Ruiz, testified that on December 14, 2015, at approximately 9:30 a.m., she let her dog, Bosley, out into backyard. The yard is surrounded by a 44-inch tall wooden stockade fence. Additionally, there is a netted deer fence within Ruiz's ...


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