Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Appeal from Municipal Court Trial Court Case No.
TERRANCE MITCHELL, Plaintiff-Appellee-Pro Se
L. RABOLD, Atty. Attorney for Defendant-Appellant
1} Defendant-appellant, Brownie's Independent
Transmission ("BIT"), appeals a decision of the
Dayton Municipal Court awarding judgment to
plaintiff-appellee, Terrance Mitchell, following a bench
trial. For the reasons outlined below, the judgment of the
trial court will be reversed.
and Course of Proceedings
2} On July 21, 2015, Mitchell filed a pro se
complaint in the small claims division of the Dayton
Municipal Court alleging that BIT owed him $1, 161.34 for
failing to repair his 2003 Chevy Blazer. The matter proceeded
to a bench trial before a magistrate on August 19, 2015.
Mitchell appeared at trial and testified on his own behalf
while BIT was represented by counsel.
3} At trial, Mitchell testified that in November
2012, he drove his vehicle to BIT's automotive repair
shop located on Main Street in Dayton, Ohio, because
"the transmission was slipping" and his vehicle was
"doing a jerk." Trial Trans. (Aug. 19, 2015), p. 3,
6. Mitchell testified that BIT performed a diagnostic
inspection on his vehicle and confirmed that the transmission
needed repaired. Mitchell provided an invoice to the
magistrate dated November 28, 2012, that itemized the
agreed-upon repairs and other costs, which totaled $1,
161.34. See Plaintiff's Exhibit I. The invoice
noted that "Brownies IT rebuilt transmission [and]
rebuilt torque converter with a 6 month 6, 000 mile
warrant[y] if repaired at 1901 North Main Street location
4} Mitchell testified that his vehicle was stored at
BIT's Dixie Drive location while he was making payments
toward the repair cost. Mitchell claimed that after he made
his final payment, BIT informed him that his vehicle would
not start despite BIT performing the agreed-upon repairs and
installing new spark plugs. According to Mitchell, BIT told
him that their best mechanic was going to look into the
matter. However, shortly thereafter, BIT contacted Mitchell
and explained that it could not fix anything else because the
shop only worked on transmissions. Mitchell testified that he
did not know whether BIT fixed the transmission on his
vehicle as promised.
5} It is undisputed that BIT returned the inoperable
vehicle to Mitchell on January 12, 2013, by towing the
vehicle to Mitchell's house on a flatbed truck. Mitchell
testified that his vehicle has not been moved or worked on by
another mechanic since its return. To establish this,
Mitchell provided the magistrate with two photographs that he
claimed he took the day before trial. One of the photographs
depicts a green Chevy Blazer and the other depicts a
speedometer. See Plaintiffs Exhibits II and III.
Mitchell testified that the photographs show his vehicle
parked at the location where BIT returned it, and the
vehicle's speedometer reading, which had not changed
significantly since it was dropped off at BIT on November 28,
6} Following Mitchell's testimony, BIT moved the
magistrate to dismiss Mitchell's claim on grounds that it
was filed outside the applicable two-year statute of
limitations for claims alleging damage to personal property.
The magistrate advised that he would have to research the
matter and would accept additional briefs on the issue. In
response, BIT indicated that it would proceed at trial with
the motion to dismiss pending.
7} In proceeding at trial, BIT did not attempt to
cross-examine Mitchell or present any of its own witnesses.
Rather, BIT's attorney argued that the November 28, 2012
invoice presented by Mitchell indicated that there were other
problems with the vehicle. Specifically, BIT pointed to a
notation on the invoice that stated: "While [your
vehicle] was here we took the opportunity of inspecting it
and find that the following items need attention-Engine Codes
P128 - P155 - P300 - P442 Needs [illegible] minor oil leaks
[check] exhaust system." Plaintiffs Exhibit I.
8} BIT also argued that Mitchell failed to present
any evidence demonstrating that the vehicle would not start
due to the transmission or torque converter not working. BIT
maintained that it performed the work on those parts of the
vehicle as promised and that a number of other issues could
have arisen while the vehicle was being stored in wait of
9} BIT provided a business record to the magistrate
showing that Mitchell's vehicle was returned to him on
January 12, 2013, thus establishing a 46-day storage period.
See Defendant's Exhibit I. BIT also argued that
the vehicle was operable when it was driven to BIT's
Dixie Drive location for storage, as BIT claimed that
Mitchell would have otherwise been charged for a tow to that
10} Following the bench trial, on August 24, 2015,
BIT submitted a brief in support of its motion to dismiss
arguing that Mitchell brought his claim past the two-year
statute of limitations in R.C. 2305.10(A), which applies to
product liability claims and claims alleging bodily injury
and injury to personal property. Mitchell did not file a
brief in opposition.
11} On October 14, 2015, the magistrate issued a
written decision overruling BIT's motion to dismiss and
granting judgment in favor of Mitchell in the amount of $1,
161.34. In overruling BIT's motion to dismiss, the
magistrate found that Mitchell's claim sounded in breach
of contract, which, pursuant to R.C. 2305.06, has an
eight-year statute of limitations. Accordingly, the
magistrate concluded that Mitchell had brought his claim
within the applicable limitations period.
12} In granting judgment in favor of Mitchell, the
magistrate found, based on the evidence presented at trial,
that Mitchell had entered into an implied contract with BIT
in which Mitchell agreed to pay BIT to fix the transmission
on his vehicle. The magistrate also found that after Mitchell
made his final payment to BIT, his vehicle would not start
and that BIT towed the vehicle to Mitchell's house where
it has remained ever since. The magistrate further found that
Mitchell presented sufficient evidence demonstrating that BIT
failed to fix the vehicle's transmission. The ...