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Klossner v. Burr

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Wayne

April 30, 2018

JAMES BURR Appellant


          DONALD GALLICK, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          J. DOUGLAS DRUSHAL and ERIC T. MICHENER, Attorneys at Law, for Appellee.


          HENSAL, JUDGE.

         {¶1} James Burr appeals a judgment of the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas that ordered specific performance of a real estate purchase agreement. For the following reasons, this Court affirms.


         {¶2} In October 2014, David Klossner entered into a real estate purchase agreement with Mr. Burr concerning six acres of land on which Mr. Klossner wanted to build a manufacturing facility. Because the land was not next to the road, the agreement also granted Mr. Klossner a permanent easement on more of Mr. Burr's land so that he could build an entrance to the facility. The agreement was contingent on the parties obtaining the zoning variances needed for the facility from the township where the land is located.

         {¶3} After the parties signed the agreement, Mr. Klossner started seeking the zoning variances. During the process, he learned that the driveway would have to be 100 feet wide, instead of the 60 feet provided for in the purchase agreement. He emailed Mr. Burr about modifying the agreement, and Mr. Burr agreed to the change. Next, he learned that the township wanted the facility moved farther away from nearby housing, so he asked Mr. Burr if they could move everything over 75 feet. Mr. Burr agreed to that change too.

         {¶4} A couple of weeks after the second modification, Mr. Klossner learned that there was a leach field under some of the land where he intended to build the driveway. The leach field was part of the septic system of a building on adjacent property. Although no one was exactly sure of the leach field's layout, the county health department was concerned that Mr. Klossner's project would damage it. Mr. Klossner told Mr. Burr about the issue and suggested that he take legal action against the neighboring land owner. He also asked Mr. Burr if they could add 15 feet to the south side of the easement on a temporary basis, so that he could begin construction of the facility before the leach-field issue was resolved. Mr. Burr responded by email that Mr. Klossner could have a temporary easement.

         {¶5} Mr. Klossner continued working on the project through February 2015. At one point he offered to buy all of Mr. Burr's land, but Mr. Burr found his proposal laughable. On March 7, Mr. Klossner emailed Mr. Burr, explaining that he could not get a septic permit for his facility because the health department feared that the temporary easement might expire before the leach-field issue was resolved. He, therefore, asked Mr. Burr if the temporary easement could become permanent if the neighboring landowner ended up being able to keep the leach field in place. Mr. Burr did not reply to the message. A couple of days later, the health department approved the construction of the driveway, however, based on additional assurances from Mr. Klossner about the leach field.

         {¶6} Over the following 10 days, Mr. Klossner sent updates to Mr. Burr, but Mr. Burr did not send any replies. On March 17, Mr. Klossner emailed Mr. Burr that there was a good chance that they would be able to close their deal on March 20. Mr. Burr answered that he thought Mr. Klossner had "jumped the gun" because they still had not worked out a definition of "temporary" and the definition that Mr. Klossner's lawyer had proposed was unacceptable. Mr. Burr also explained that he felt as if Mr. Klossner had put him in the position where he had to hire his own lawyer. After receiving a letter from Mr. Klossner's lawyer on March 20 that threatened him with legal action if he did not proceed to closing, Mr. Burr stopped communicating with Mr. Klossner.

         {¶7} In April 2015, Mr. Klossner filed a complaint for specific performance against Mr. Burr, and the matter proceeded to a bench trial. Following the trial, each party submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court adopted Mr. Klossner's proposal and entered a judgment that conveyed title of the property to him along with a permanent and temporary easement. Mr. Burr has appealed, assigning as error that the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered specific performance.


         ASSIGNMENT ...

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