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Estrella v. Gupta

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

February 15, 2018

AUGUSTO ESTRELLA PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
DR. GUPTA, EYE M.D., L.L.C., ET AL. DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS

         Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-16-861556

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Randy R. Ice Ice Law Offices

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES Mark S. Shearer Kevin M. McDermott, II

          BEFORE: Keough, J., Laster Mays, P.J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, J.

         {¶1} This cause came to be heard upon the accelerated calendar pursuant to App.R. 11.1 and Loc.R. 11.1. The purpose of an accelerated appeal is to allow the appellate court to render a brief and conclusory opinion. Crawford v. Eastland Shopping Mall Assn., 11 Ohio App.3d 158, 463 N.E.2d 655 (10th Dist.1983); App.R. 11.1(E).

         {¶2} Defendants-appellants, Ajay Gupta, M.D. ("Dr. Gupta"), Chhaya Patel, M.D. ("Dr. Patel"), Dr. Gupta, Eye M.D., L.L.C. ("Gupta L.L.C."), and Chhaya Patel M.D., L.L.C. ("Patel, L.L.C") (collectively "appellants" or "defendants"), appeal from the trial court's decision denying their Civ.R. 60(B) motion to vacate the judgments entered on August 15, 2016 and September 20, 2016. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's decision.

         {¶3} In April 2016, plaintiff-appellee, Augusto Estrella ("Estrella"), filed a complaint against the appellants for unpaid wages. Estrella alleged that the appellants were joint employers who failed to pay him for work performed in January and February 2016. Service was perfected on the appellants and when they failed to respond, Estella moved for default judgment. The hearing on Estrella's motion was scheduled for July 14, 2016. After receiving notice of the default hearing, Dr. Gupta contacted Estrella's counsel. As a result of the conversation, the default hearing was continued.

         {¶4} On August 4, 2016, a default hearing was held and only Dr. Gupta appeared. He was prepared to represent all the defendants. However, the trial court advised Dr. Gupta that he could only represent himself, and not Dr. Patel (Dr. Gupta's wife), and the other L.L.C. defendants. The trial court granted Dr. Gupta until August 19, 2016 to file an answer, but entered default judgment against the other defendants - Dr. Patel, Gupta, L.L.C., and Patel, L.L.C. The entry granting default was filed on August 15, 2016. No direct appeal was filed.

         {¶5} On August 18, 2016, Estrella's counsel presented the trial court with an agreed judgment entry signed by Drs. Gupta and Patel, and by both as representatives of their respective companies. The parties agreed that they would be jointly and severally liable to Estrella in the amount of $5, 000. However, the trial court refused to accept the agreed judgment entry as against all of the defendants because it had previously entered a default judgment against those defaulting defendants in the amount of $6, 986.90, including costs and interest. The court, however, accepted the agreed entry with respect to Dr. Gupta; it was filed on September 20, 2016. No direct appeal was taken.

         {¶6} On November 11, 2016, Estrella filed a garnishment notice against Dr. Patel. Her wages were subsequently garnished from her employer, Metro Health System.

         {¶7} On June 2, 2017, the appellants filed a Civ.R. 60(B) motion to vacate the default judgment entered on August 15, 2016, and the agreed entry dated September 20, 2016. The appellants sought to vacate both judgment entries because they "were entered when [appellants] were not represented and did not understand the consequences of their inaction; because the judgments would never have been entered had the true facts been timely pleaded; and because the judgments have severely impacted their medical practices." The trial court denied the motion, finding that the appellants failed to meet their burden necessary to support relief pursuant to Civ.R. 60(B).

         {¶8} Appellants timely appeal, contending in their sole assignment of error that the trial court erred and abused its discretion by denying their Civ.R. 60(B) motion to vacate the default judgment.

         {¶9} Although appellants' Civ.R. 60(B) motion sought to vacate both the August 15, 2016 default judgment and the September 20, 2016 agreed judgment, the appeal only challenges the trial court's decision denying the Civ.R. 60(B) motion as it pertains to the August 15, 2016 default judgment. Accordingly, our decision will only address the trial court's decision to deny the Civ.R. 60(B) ...


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