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Abdalla v. Wilson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking

January 31, 2018

GEORGE ABDALLA Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
DONALD T. WILSON Defendant-Appellee

          Civil Appeal from the Municipal Court, Case No. 16 CVI 00297

          For Plaintiff-Appellant ROBERT N. ABDALLA REESE, PYLE, DRAKE & MEYER

          For Defendant-Appellee DONALD T. WILSON

          Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J.

          OPINION

          WISE, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant George Abdalla appeals the decision of the Licking County Municipal Court, which granted judgment against Defendant-Appellee Donald T. Wilson in appellant's small-claims action for damages to rental property. The relevant facts leading to this appeal are as follows.

         {¶2} Appellant was the landlord of a residence on Lake Drive in Thornville, Ohio, which he allegedly rented to appellee from 2014 to 2016. On September 28, 2016, appellant filed a civil complaint in the Licking County Municipal Court, Small Claims Division (hereinafter "trial court"), against appellee, seeking more than $4, 000.00 for damages allegedly caused to the aforementioned rental property. The trial court set the matter for a mediation conference, which was scheduled for November 1, 2016. Appellee did not appear, but he subsequently claimed he had not received his summons in time. After a rescheduled mediation conference, the parties were unable to resolve the dispute.

         {¶3} An evidentiary hearing was ultimately scheduled before a municipal court magistrate on February 23, 2017. At no time did appellee file any counterclaims. The trial went forward before the magistrate as scheduled.

         {¶4} On March 9, 2017, the magistrate issued a decision, essentially finding that appellee had caused $459.03 in damages, but ruling that a $450.00 security deposit held by appellant would be applied to offset these damages. Thus, judgment was granted in favor of appellant for the sum of $9.03.

         {¶5} On March 15, 2017, appellee, in lieu of filing an objection to the magistrate's decision, filed a request for "reconsideration, " urging that the "$450.00" security deposit mentioned in the above decision was actually in the amount of $750.00, citing one of the trial exhibits. Appellee on the same day also filed a request for the magistrate to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law.[1]

         {¶6} On April 4, 2017, the magistrate issued an "order modifying his March 9, 2017 decision to grant judgment in favor of appellee and against appellant in the amount of $290.97. It reads in its entirety as follows: "Upon Defendant's motion for reconsideration the Court finds it to be well-taken and hereby modifies its prior decision to reflect that Defendant's security deposit was $750.00 of which Plaintiff has a Judgment for $459.03. Plaintiff is not entitled to remaining $290.97 which Plaintiff must return to Defendant."

         {¶7} On April 13, 2017, appellant filed a motion to set aside said magistrate's order. He therein maintained inter alia that Appellee Wilson could not obtain a judgment on a claim he did not plead or assert during pre-trial or trial.

         {¶8} On April 20, 2017, the magistrate, rather than the trial court judge, issued an entry saying simply "denied."

         {¶9} On May 23, 2017, the trial court issued a judgment entry, signed by the trial court judge, affirming and adopting the magistrate's April 4, 2017 "order and awarding judgment in favor of appellee for $290.97. The judgment entry does not make any direct reference to ...


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