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Woods Cove II, L.L.C. v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 28, 2017


         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-13-806369

          FOR APPELLANT Terrence Williams, pro se

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE For Woods Cove II, L.L.C. and Mountainside Realty Ventures, L.L.C. David T. Brady Andrew M. Tomko Austin B. Barnes, III Suzanne M. Godenswager Brian Steven Gozelanczyk Sandhu Law Group, L.L.C.

          Also Listed: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Federal Trade Commission Ohio Bar Association For United States of America U.S. District Attorney Civil Process Clerk

          BEFORE Stewart, J., Keough, A.J., and E.T. Gallagher, J.



         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Terrence Williams appeals, pro se, from the trial court order forfeiting real property to plaintiff-appellee Mountainside Realty Ventures, L.L.C., successor in interest to plaintiff Woods Cove II, L.L.C. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

         {¶2} At the outset of this litigation, Williams owned an interest in the property that was subject to various claims by defendants who are not parties to this appeal. While the case was pending in the trial court, Williams passed his interest in the property to his mother, Geri Upton, who then conveyed half of that interest back to Williams such that, as Williams states in his brief, each owned a one-half interest in the property.[1] Upton was not named in the initial complaint, and the docket does not indicate that she was ever added as a party or entered an appearance in the case. Nevertheless, Mountainside, Williams, and the trial court all refer to her as a codefendant.[2]

         {¶3} There is little disagreement between the parties regarding the facts in this case. Woods Cove purchased tax certificates relating to Williams's property. It brought this tax certificate foreclosure action against Williams claiming the amounts he owed on the certificates were due and unpaid. Service was perfected, although Williams never answered the complaint or entered a formal appearance. Woods Cove filed an unopposed motion for default judgment that the trial court granted. The court then granted a decree of foreclosure.

         {¶4} Woods Cove made numerous attempts to have the property sold by the county sheriff. During the pendency of this case, Williams and Upton filed seven bankruptcies. Some of these bankruptcy filings interrupted attempted sales of the property and caused them to be withdrawn. Nevertheless, two sales attempts were completed. Because the sales attempts were completed but the property remained unsold for want of a bidder, pursuant to R.C. 5721.40, the court ordered that the property be forfeited to Mountainside, the successor in interest to Woods Cove.

         {¶5} Williams assigns two errors for our review: that the trial court erred in disregarding Woods Cove's purported violation of an automatic stay filed on November 4, 2016, and that the court erred by granting Woods Cove a decree of forfeiture in light of the most recent bankruptcy filed. The assignments of error flow from the same premise: that the most recent bankruptcy filed, Upton's third within one year, created an automatic stay of the proceedings before the trial court.

         {¶6} The only question before this court is what effect, if any, Upton's third bankruptcy filing had on the underlying case. We resolve that the bankruptcy had no effect on the proceedings and did not cause an automatic stay.

         {¶7} R.C. 5721.40 directs a trial court to forfeit a tax certificate property, when the property is twice offered for sale pursuant to R.C. 5721.39, but remains unsold for want of a bidder. In those cases, the court is required to forfeit the property to the certificate holder who filed the foreclosure request under R.C. 5721.37.

         {¶8} In this case, on September 22, 2016, the court ordered the sheriff to sell the subject property on November 7, 2016, and if unsuccessful, the court ordered that a second attempt be made on November 21, 2016. The docket reflects that on November 21, the sheriff filed a return of sale indicating compliance with the order, and that the property had not sold for want of a bidder. In light of these failed sales, on December 19, 2016, the court forfeited the property to Mountainside, ...

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