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Parmelee v. Schnader

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

February 22, 2018


         Civil Appeal from Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County, Ohio Case No. 2015 CV 1919.

          For Plaintiffs-Appellants Attorney Anthony Farris Attorney Jennifer Ciccone

          For Defendants-Appellees Attorney Gregory Beck Attorney Tonya Rogers

          JUDGES: Hon. Gene Donofrio, Hon. Cheryl L. Waite, Hon. Carol Ann Robb


          DONOFRIO, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Plaintiffs-appellants, Nancy Parmelee and Amy Sloan, appeal from a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees, Steven Kotheimer, the Goshen Police District, and Goshen Township, and finding that appellees were entitled to qualified immunity.

         {¶2} Appellant Nancy Parmelee is defendant Gene Schnader's ex-wife. Appellant Amy Sloan is Parmelee's adult daughter but is unrelated to Schnader. Schnader resides in a house on Pine Lake Road in Salem. He also owns a separate guest house on that property.

         {¶3} During the end of May 2014, Sloan and her minor children moved into Schnader's guest house. Parmelee and her grandson moved into Schnader's main residence. The parties did not enter into a written lease and appellants paid no rent to Schnader. On July 25, 2014, Parmelee informed Schnader that she was going to find other living arrangements. The next day, Schnader changed the locks on the main house and the guest house. He also placed some of appellants' personal property in bags and placed the bags on the porch.

         {¶4} On July 27, 2014, appellee Officer Steven Kotheimer was dispatched to Schnader's property on a call from Parmelee. Officer Kotheimer arrived at the property before appellants arrived there. Appellants sought to retrieve their personal belongings from inside of Schnader's house and guest house, which were both locked. Officer Kotheimer told appellants that he could not force Schnader to grant them access to the houses.

         {¶5} Officer Kotheimer informed appellants that a dispute over personal property was a civil matter and if Schnader did not want them on his property, they would have to leave. Officer Kotheimer did not forcibly remove appellants from Schnader's property. Appellants loaded up the bags of their belongings that Schnader had left outside and they left.

         {¶6} Appellants returned to Schnader's property on July 31, 2014 and again on August 4, 2014. Sloan collected all of her remaining personal property. Parmelee claims some of her personal property is still in Schnader's house.

         {¶7} Appellants filed a 16-count complaint on July 22, 2015, against Schnader and appellees. Of the 16 counts, four were against appellees. Appellants asserted that appellees deprived them of their Fourteenth Amendment right against deprivation of property without due process and their Fourth Amendment right against illegal seizures of their persons and property. They also asserted Goshen Police District and Goshen Township failed to adequately train its officers in landlord-tenant disputes.

         {¶8} Appellees filed a motion for summary judgment on April 1, 2016, asserting they were entitled to qualified immunity. Appellants filed a response in opposition.

         {¶9} A magistrate considered appellees' summary judgment motion.

         {¶10} As to the claims against Officer Kotheimer, the magistrate found that appellants were denied their possessory right to their personal property by Schnader. He pointed out that when Officer Kotheimer arrived on the scene, Schnader had already changed the locks and placed some of appellants' personal property outside. The magistrate noted that Officer Kotheimer played no role in this. Moreover, he found it was undisputed that Schnader would not allow appellants into his property to retrieve the rest of their belongings. The magistrate noted that when asked what the officer did to lead them to believe he was evicting them, appellants only stated that Officer Kotheimer denied them access to the property. But the magistrate noted that the doors were locked, appellants did not have a key, and they admitted the only way they could have gained access into the houses would have been to break down a door or window. Moreover, the magistrate noted that appellants were able to return to their own homes on the day in question. Thus, the magistrate determined that Officer Kotheimer did not meaningfully interfere with appellants' possessory interests in their property and, therefore, there was no seizure under the Fourteenth Amendment.

         {¶11} As to the claims against the Goshen Police District (GPD), the magistrate found that the GPD was a township police department and is not sui juris, a legal entity. Therefore, the ...

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