Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Jefferson
Appeal from Court of Common Pleas of Jefferson County, Ohio
Case No. 12 CV 509
Plaintiffs-Appellees Attorney Mark A. Colantonio Attorney
Kevin M. Pearl
Defendants-Appellants Attorney Holly Marie Wilson, Attorney
JUDGES: Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite Hon. Mary
Defendants-appellants, Jerron Caruthers and Butler Transport,
Inc., appeal from a Jefferson County Common Pleas Court
judgment certifying a class in the class action complaint
filed by plaintiffs-appellees, Stanley Kavanaugh, Amy
Kavanaugh, Stanley Cottis, Anna Cottis, and Route 22 Pizza,
On October 3, 2012, appellees filed a class action complaint
alleging that on September 28, 2012, appellant Jerron
Caruthers was operating a tractor trailer that struck a
"guy wire" resulting in a loss of electricity to
the homes and businesses of customers of American Electric
Power (AEP). The complaint further alleged that at the time,
Caruthers was acting within the scope of his employment with
appellant Butler Transport, Inc. (Butler). The complaint
asserted that appellees and the proposed class members
suffered inconvenience, loss of business, and financial
injury. The complaint identified the proposed class as all of
those individuals and businesses that lost power on September
28, 2012, as a result of power outages caused by appellants.
The matter was removed to federal court for some time but was
eventually returned to the trial court.
On January 21, 2016, appellees filed a motion for class
certification. The motion stated that 1, 563 AEP customers in
Jefferson County lost power due to the alleged negligence of
The trial court held a hearing on appellees' motion for
class certification where it heard arguments from all
parties. The court subsequently issued a judgment entry
certifying the proposed class. In so doing, the court found
that the class was so numerous that a joinder of all members
is impracticable, that there are questions of law or fact
common to the class, that the claims of the representative
parties are typical of the claims of the class, and that the
representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the
interest of the class. Further, the court found that common
questions of law and fact predominated over questions
affecting only individual class members and that a class
action is superior to other available methods for the fair
and efficient adjudication of the controversy.
Appellants filed a timely notice of appeal on June 29, 2016.
They now raise a single assignment of error for our review.
Appellants' assignment of error states:
THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN CERTIFYING A
CLASS WHERE THE PLAINTIFFS FAILED TO SATISFY BOTH THE
EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT REQUIREMENTS OF CIV.R. 23.
A trial court has broad discretion in determining whether a
class action may be maintained. Baughman v. State Farm
Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 88 Ohio St.3d 480, 483,
2000-Ohio-397, 727 N.E.2d 1265. The abuse-of-discretion
standard of review applies here due to the trial court's
special expertise and familiarity with case-management
problems and its inherent power to manage its own docket.
Hamilton v. Ohio Sav. Bank, 82 Ohio St.3d 67, 70,
1998-Ohio-365, 694 N.E.2d 442. Therefore, an appellate court
will not disturb the trial court's determination absent
an abuse of discretion. Id. Abuse of discretion is
more than an error of law or judgment; instead it is a
finding that the trial court's attitude is unreasonable,
arbitrary, or unconscionable. Blakemore v.
Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140
Civ.R. 23 governs class actions. Civ.R. 23(A) contains four
requirements for a class member to bring a class action:
(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is
(2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class,
(3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are
typical of the claims or ...