Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
STATE ex rel. CITY OF ENGLEWOOD DIRECTOR OF LAW Plaintiff-Appellant
RED CARPET INN, et al. Defendants-Appellees
Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
MICHAEL P. MCNAMEE, Atty., CYNTHIA P. MCNAMEE, Atty., GREGORY
B. O'CONNOR, Atty., and ALEXANDER W. CLOONAN, Atty.,
Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant
MATTHEW C. SORG, Atty. Attorney for Defendants-Appellees
1} Plaintiff-appellant, the City of Englewood
Director of Law, appeals from the trial court's final
judgment of April 24, 2017, in which the court dismissed his
abatement action against Defendants-appellees, Satya
Hospitality Corporation and Rajesh Patel. Presenting two
assignments of error, Appellant argues essentially that the
trial court misinterpreted several sections of R.C. Chapter
3767. We find, however, that the underlying legal controversy
has since been rendered moot, and therefore, this appeal is
dismissed in accord with the mootness doctrine.
Facts and Procedural History
2} Beginning in 2001, Satya Hospitality Corporation
("SHC") owned and operated a Red Carpet Inn
franchise in Englewood, located on the parcel of land it owns
at 15 Rockridge Road. Appellant initiated an abatement action
against Appellees on November 7, 2016, alleging that
Appellees' business qualified as a nuisance under R.C.
3767.01(C)(2) as the result of purportedly significant
"illegal and immoral activity [on the premises, ]
includ[ing] drug use and prostitution." Appellant's
3} The parties tried the case to the bench on
January 26, 2017. On March 8, 2017, the trial court entered a
verdict in Appellees' favor and directed the parties to
submit proposed findings of fact pursuant to Civ.R. 52. The
court thereafter entered its final judgment, captioned
"Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, " on
April 24, 2017, formally dismissing Appellant's complaint
4} Appellant timely filed his notice of appeal on
May 18, 2017. Several months afterward, in late September or
early October, 2017, Appellees "voluntarily
demolished" the building in which the Red Carpet Inn
franchise had been operated, leaving only the building's
"concrete footers in the ground." Appellant's
Br. 2; Appellees' Br. 1-2.
5} Appellees raise the prospect of mootness in their
brief, though without discussion. Appellees' Br. 1-2. In
his reply brief, Appellant acknowledges "that an
appellate court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate moot
claims" and concedes that the trial court could, on
remand, hardly order the closure of facilities that no longer
exist. See Appellant's Br. 2. Nevertheless,
Appellant argues that "at least two" exceptions to
the mootness doctrine apply to this case. Id. at 3.
Specifically, Appellant refers to the exceptions applicable
to "appeals [in which] the issues raised are
'capable of repetition, yet evading review, ' "
and appeals in which "the matter appealed is one of
great public or general interest." State ex rel.
Plain Dealer Publ'g Co. v. Barnes, 38 Ohio St.3d
165, 527 N.E.2d 807 (1988), paragraph one of the syllabus,
quoting S. Pac. Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 U.S. 498,
515, 31 S.Ct. 279, 55 L.Ed. 310 (1911), and Franchise
Developers, Inc. v. City of Cincinnati, 30 Ohio St.3d
28, 505 N.E.2d 966 (1987), paragraph one of the syllabus.
6} The "role of courts is to decide adversarial
legal cases and to issue judgments that can be carried into
effect." Cryan v. Cryan, Ohio Sup. Ct. Slip
Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-24, ¶ 9, citing Fortner v.
Thomas, 22 Ohio St.2d 13, 14, 257 N.E.2d 371 (1970).
Thus, when the parties to an action " lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome, ' [the] case becomes
moot." Id., quoting Powell v.
McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 496, 89 S.Ct. 1944, 23 L.Ed.2d
491 (1969). Conversely, "if an actual controversy exists
because [the] court [can] grant the requested relief, [then]
the case is not moot, and a consideration of the merits is
warranted." State ex rel. Gaylor, Inc. v.
Goodenow, 125 Ohio St.3d 407, 2010-Ohio-1844, 928 N.E.2d
728, ¶ 11. An "appellate court need not consider an
issue, and will dismiss [an] appeal, when [it] becomes aware
of an event that has rendered the issue moot * * *."
Cincinnati Gas & Elec. Co. v. Pub. Util.
Comm'n, 103 Ohio St.3d 398, 2004-Ohio-5466, 816
N.E.2d 238, ¶ 15, citing Miner v. Witt, 82 Ohio
St. 237, 238, 92 N.E. 21 (1910); see also Townsend v.
Antioch Univ., 2d Dist. Greene No. 2008-CA-103,
2009-Ohio-2552, ¶ 8, citing Tschantz v.
Ferguson, 57 Ohio St.3d 131, 133, 566 N.E.2d 655 (1991).
7} Here, we find that the instant case has been made
moot by the demolition of the improvements on Appellees'
property. Appellant predicated the abatement action against
Appellees on allegations that the facilities of the Red
Carpet Inn were used for prostitution and for trafficking in
controlled substances, along with allegations that the
facilities themselves were structurally unsafe and not
maintained in compliance with applicable public health
regulations. See Compl. ¶ 16-23, 25-26, 28-32,
35, 44, 48-49 and 51, Nov. 7, 2016. As Appellant recognizes,
however, even assuming that Appellees' property qualified
as a nuisance for the reasons alleged in the complaint, the
demolition of the improvements on the property has
effectively accomplished the permanent abatement of the
nuisance, leaving no regulatory violations or illegal
activity to enjoin. The demolition of the improvements,
moreover, would seem to be the result ultimately sought by
the City of Englewood itself. See Compl. ¶ 41.
8} Appellant argues that the mootness doctrine
should not apply to this appeal because the issues presented
are capable of repetition but likely to evade review.
Appellant's Br. 4-5. Although Appellant agrees that
"the Red Carpet Inn, specifically, is no longer a
concern, " he avers that "there are several other
hotels in Englewood and the greater Miami Valley"
potentially subject to abatement for similar reasons.
Id. at 4. Consequently, Appellant claims a
"need [for ...