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Elliott-Thomas v. Smith

Supreme Court of Ohio

May 8, 2018

Elliott-Thomas, Appellee,
v.
Smith et al., Appellants.

          Submitted January 25, 2018

          Certified by the Court of Appeals for Trumbull County, No. 2015-T-0007, 2017-Ohio-702.

          Consolo Law Firm, Co., L.P.A., and Frank Consolo, for appellee.

          Reminger Co., L.P.A., Martin T. Galvin, and Jonathan H. Krol, for appellants.

          Willis & Willis Attorneys, Co., L.P.A., and Jason E. Starling, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Association for Justice.

          Elfvin, Klingshirn, Royer & Torch, L.L.C., and Christina M. Royer, urging affirmance for amicus curiae Ohio Employment Lawyers Association.

          KENNEDY, J.

         {¶ 1} The Eleventh District Court of Appeals determined that its judgment in this case conflicts with judgments of the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth District Courts of Appeals, and it certified the issue in conflict as follows:

"Does the tort of intentional interference with or destruction of evidence include claims alleging interference with or concealment of evidence that disrupt a plaintiffs underlying case? Or, is the tort of intentional interference with or destruction of evidence limited to claims that allege evidence is physically altered or destroyed?"

150 Ohio St.3d 1406, 2017-Ohio-6964, 78 N.E.3d 907, quoting 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2015-T-0007 (May 4, 2017). We agreed that a conflict exists and accepted this matter for review. Id.

         {¶ 2} As the questions are framed by the appellate court, resolution of one resolves the other. We answer the first question in the negative, and therefore, we need not address the second question. We reverse the judgment of the Eleventh District Court of Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the trial court.

         Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 3} In August 2012, appellee, Kristen Elliott-Thomas, filed an action against the Warren City School District, its board of education, and five board members (collectively, "school defendants") alleging wrongful termination and sex discrimination ("wrongful-termination case"). Appellants, David Kane Smith and David Hirt, are attorneys who represented the school defendants in the wrongful-termination case.

         {¶ 4} While the wrongful-termination case was pending, Elliott-Thomas filed the instant action against Smith, Hirt, and two members of the school board, alleging intentional spoliation of evidence. Specifically, she contends that Smith and Hirt intentionally withheld, ...


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