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Woods v. Progressive Direct Insurance Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Sixth District, Erie

May 11, 2018

Anthony Woods, et al. Appellants
Progressive Direct Insurance Company Appellee

          Trial Court Nos. 2014 CV 0743 2015 CV 0606

          Joseph A. Zannieri, for appellants.

          Christopher J. Ankuda and Paul R. Morway, for appellee.


          PIETRYKOWSKI, J.

         {¶ 1} This consolidated appeal is from two judgments of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas: in case No. E-17-021 (No. 2014 CV 0743), the trial court's denial of appellants' motion for relief from judgment as to the default judgment granted on appellee Progressive Direct Insurance Company's declaratory judgment claims and request to have admissions deemed admitted; and in case No. E-17-022 (2015 CV 0606), the trial court's August 14, 2017 judgment granting appellee's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶ 2} This case involves successive lawsuits with identical parties and relating to the question of automobile insurance coverage following the alleged insured, Ryan Williams' April 23, 2012 accident in a rental vehicle. For ease of discussion, we will separately, to the extent practicable, set forth the procedural history of the cases.

         Case No. E-17-021

         {¶ 3} This case commenced on November 3, 2014, with appellants Anthony Woods, Stephanie Woods, and Ryan Williams filing a complaint against Progressive alleging breach of contract and bad faith in the denial of coverage. On January 2, 2015, Progressive filed an answer and counterclaim for declaratory judgment. In its counterclaim, Progressive asked the court to confirm that it had no duty to either defend or indemnify appellants and that it acted reasonably in handling and evaluating the issue of coverage.

         {¶ 4} On February 6, 2015, Progressive served its discovery requests, including requests for admissions, to appellants. On March 25, 2015, appellants filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, without prejudice, of all the claims against Progressive. Appellants did not file an answer to Progressive's counterclaim.

         {¶ 5} On April 9, 2015, Progressive filed a motion for default judgment pursuant to Civ.R. 55. Progressive argued that appellants failed to answer or otherwise respond to their declaratory judgment counterclaim. On the same day, Progressive filed a motion to deem the requests for admissions served upon appellants as admitted due to their failure to respond within 28 days under Civ.R. 36.

         {¶ 6} In response to the motion for default judgment, appellants argued that because they dismissed their claims, the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. Appellants further argued that they did not default on the counterclaim because they had raised the same issues in their initial complaint (a request for a declaration of their rights under the contract). Appellants made similar arguments as to the requests for admissions.

         {¶ 7} On September 17, 2015, the trial court denied Progressive's motions finding that appellants' dismissal of the action ended the court's jurisdiction over the matter. Progressive appealed the ruling and on appeal this court reversed finding that a properly asserted counterclaim was not extinguished by a plaintiffs voluntary dismissal of its claims. See Woods v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co., 2016-Ohio-8530, 79 N.E.3d 1248 (6th Dist) ("Woods I ").

         {¶ 8} On remand, the trial court granted Progressive's motions on March 15, 2017. Appellants filed a motion for relief from judgment which was denied. Appellants appealed the judgments. On May 24, 2017, we remanded the matter for the trial court to enter a final and appealable order of its judgment granting default judgment to Progressive. Specifically, we instructed the court, as requested by Progressive, to declare the rights and obligations of the parties under the insurance policy. The court then filed its amended judgment entry on August 2, 2017.

         Case No. E-17-022[1]

         {¶ 9} Appellants refiled their voluntarily dismissed claims on September 25, 2015. On January 19, 2017, Progressive filed its motion for summary judgment based upon res judicata specifically, collateral estoppel. Appellants opposed the motion. On March 15, 2017, the court granted the motion, without written analysis. Appellants then commenced the instant appeal. As in case No. E-17-021, we remanded the matter for the court to declare the rights and obligations of the parties due to the nature of the prior declaratory judgment action. The court filed its amended judgment entry on August 14, 2017.

         {¶ 10} Appellants now raise five assignments of error for our review:

Assignment of Error Number 1: The trial court should have granted relief from judgment in Case CV 0743.
Assignment of Error Number 2: The trial court abused its discretion when it refused to grant relief from the judgment deeming the requests for admissions admitted, even though the admissions were filed late.
Assignment of Error Number [3]: In its latest entry filed on August 2, 2017, the trial court granted a default judgment to Progressive. That default judgment should have never been granted because there was no default. In case No. CV 0606, an ...

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