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City of Youngstown v. Washington

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning

March 26, 2018

CITY OF YOUNGSTOWN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
WAYMAN E. WASHINGTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

          Civil Appeal from Court of Common Pleas of Mahoning County, Ohio Case No. 15 CV 2213

          For Plaintiff-Appellee Attorney Nicole Alexander City of Youngstown

          For Defendant-Appellant Wayman E. Washington, Pro se

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

          OPINION

          DONOFRIO, J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Wayman Washington, appeals the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas' judgment in his favor for nominal damages on his due process violation claim following a bench trial.

         {¶2} Appellant is the owner of real property located at 27-29 W. Boston Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio. On March 26, 2002, plaintiff-appellee, the City of Youngstown, issued a raze or repair order for the property, which at the time was not yet owned by appellant. The order specified that if the property was not repaired within 30 days, then the property would be razed at the owner's expense. But the property was not razed or repaired in 2002. Appellant purchased the property on October 29, 2004.

         {¶3} Beginning in 2008, the city began issuing supplemental raze or repair orders for appellant's property. The last orders were issued on May 25, 2010 and June 10, 2010. The May 25, 2010 order was mailed to appellant at 728 Mill Street in Youngstown, Ohio. While the order was sent via certified mail, according to appellant, it was returned undeliverable. On June 10, 2010, the city placed a notice on the property itself and sent via mail another notice. According to appellant, this notice was also returned undeliverable. As the building on the property was never repaired, the city subsequently demolished the building in 2012.

         {¶4} On March 28, 2014, the city filed this action in the Youngstown Municipal Court against appellant seeking $9, 719.80 for the costs of the demolition. By the time this action was initiated, appellant was incarcerated in the Richland Correctional Institute. Appellant answered the city's complaint and filed a counterclaim seeking $50, 000.00 in damages on the basis that his due process rights were violated as he was not properly notified of the demolition proceedings against his property. This action was transferred to the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas on the basis that appellant's counterclaim exceeded the jurisdictional limit of the Youngstown Municipal Court.

         {¶5} Throughout the discovery phase, appellant filed five separate sets of discovery requests, four amended answers, and three amended counterclaims. Eventually, both parties filed for summary judgment on their claims. The trial court denied both motions for summary judgment. After the trial court denied both motions for summary judgment, appellant filed a motion to continue the bench trial for 120 days. The trial court denied that motion and ruled that the matter was still scheduled for a bench trial on December 5, 2016 in front of a magistrate.

         {¶6} At the conclusion of the trial, the magistrate decided that the city did violate appellant's due process rights by failing to properly notify him of the demolition proceedings. But appellant failed to present evidence about any damages he sustained at trial due to his incarceration at the Richland Correctional Institute. The magistrate ultimately recommended nominal damages of one dollar in favor of appellant. After the bench trial, appellant filed a motion for extension of time to file objections to the magistrate's decision. The trial court granted appellant's extension and gave him 30 days to file any objections. Appellant filed objections to the magistrate's decision on December 29, 2016 and the city responded approximately two weeks later. On February 2, 2017, the trial court overruled appellant's objections and adopted the magistrate's decision to award appellant one dollar in damages.

         {¶7} Appellant then filed a motion for a new trial on March 6, 2017. The trial court denied this motion on March 27, 2017. Appellant timely filed this appeal on April 21, 2017. Appellant now raises four assignments of error.

         {¶8} Appellant's first assignment of error states:

THE TRIAL JUDGE ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED WASHINGTON AN OPPORTUNITY TO FILE AN OBJECTION AFTER THE CASE WAS REFERRED TO THE ...

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