Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cleveland Municipal Court Case No. 2016 CVI
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Donald M. Gallick
APPELLEE Antoinette McCall, pro se
BEFORE: S. Gallagher, J., Boyle, P.J., and Jones, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
C. GALLAGHER, JUDGE.
Liana Sage appeals Antoinette McCall's having been
granted relief from a final judgment. For the following
reasons, we affirm and remand to the trial court for further
On May 6, 2016, McCall filed a small claims action seeking
compensation for a parking lot accident in which Sage
allegedly caused damage to McCall's 2015 Lincoln MKX.
Unfortunately, McCall had inadvertently identified the date
of the accident as having occurred in March 2014, although
she also indicated in the complaint that the damage was
specifically caused to her 2015 model year vehicle. Although
it is acknowledged that car manufacturers produce automobiles
in advance of the calendar year, the allegation in the
complaint that McCall owned a 2015 model in March 2014
bordered on incredulous. At the least, the discrepancy
facially demonstrated the existence of a typographical error.
Either the date of the accident or the model year of the
damaged vehicle was incorrect.
Instead of directly addressing the discrepancy, on the day
the small claims matter was set for hearing, Sage appeared
through counsel and moved for judgment upon the pleadings.
Sage claimed the two-year statute of limitations under R.C.
2305.10 precluded the action because the accident was alleged
to have occurred in March 2014. The trial court granted the
motion in July 2016. There was no testimony or other evidence
introduced to substantiate the date of the accident.
In August 2016, McCall realized that the drafting error was
the basis of the trial court's decision and filed a
motion for relief from the July judgment under the authority
of R.C. 1925.14, which provides that "judgments of the
small claims division may be modified or vacated in the same
manner as other civil actions." McCall attached a copy
of the accident report indicating that the accident occurred
in March 2015 and that she inadvertently included the wrong
date in the complaint. The trial court, in July 2017, granted
McCall's motion over Sage's objection and also
permitted McCall to amend the complaint under R.C. 1925.09,
which provides that the court "upon vacation of a
judgment, may allow any claim to be amended."
(Emphasis added.) The amended complaint reflects the correct
date of the incident, well within the two-year statute of
limitations for property damage claims.
Sage appealed the granting of relief under Civ.R. 60(B),
claiming that McCall failed to produce admissible evidence
demonstrating the actual date of the accident, that McCall
could not utilize Civ.R. 60 because she failed to appeal the
final judgment, and that the trial court erred by permitting
McCall to amend the complaint. None of Sage's claims have
Under R.C. 1925.14, decisions in the small claims division
may be vacated as provided in any other civil action. Thus, a
litigant may avail herself of Civ.R. 60 in seeking relief
from judgment. In order to prevail on a motion for relief
from judgment, the movant must demonstrate: (1) a meritorious
defense or claim to present if relief is granted; (2)
entitlement to relief under one of the grounds stated in
Civ.R. 60(B)(1) through (5); and (3) the timeliness of the
motion. GTE Automatic Elec, Inc. v. ARC Industries,
47 Ohio St.2d 146, 150-151, 351 N.E.2d 113 (1976). We review
a trial court's denial of a Civ.R. 60(B) motion for
relief from judgment under an abuse of discretion standard.
See Rose Chevrolet, Inc. v. Adams, 36 Ohio St.3d 17,
20, 520 N.E.2d 564 (1988).
Sage does not challenge the trial court's reliance on
Civ.R. 60(B) nor the grounds supporting the individual
elements. App.R. 16(A)(7). We therefore accept the trial
court's conclusion that McCall demonstrated the existence
of a potentially meritorious claim and entitlement to relief
under Civ.R. 60(B)(1) or (5). Further, the motion was timely,
having been filed within two months of the final judgment.
In this appeal, Sage claims the trial court abused its
discretion in granting McCall relief because McCall failed to
demonstrate the date of the accident through admissible
evidence tested through the crucible of a formal evidentiary
hearing. "[B]y design, proceedings in small claims
courts are informal and geared to allowing individuals to
resolve uncomplicated disputes quickly and inexpensively. Pro
se activity is assumed and encouraged." The Ohio Rules
of Evidence do not apply, and pro se parties are permitted to
introduce evidence without having to negotiate admissibility
and authentication concerns. Cleveland Bar Assn. v.
Pearlman, 106 Ohio St.3d 136, 2005-Ohio-4107, 832 N.E.2d
1193, ¶ 15.
McCall attached a copy of the police report, generated after
the incident with Sage, to her motion for relief from
judgment. The police report demonstrated that the accident
occurred in March 2015, approximately a year before she
originally filed the small claims action and well within the
two-year statute of limitations. This is bolstered by the
fact that McCall's vehicle was identified as a 2015 model
in both complaints. McCall was not required to authenticate
the police report or otherwise seek admission of the evidence
through the applicable evidentiary rule. The Ohio Rules of
Evidence that require authentication and limit admissibility
of evidence are not applicable to the small claims
proceeding. Id. As a result, a small claims court is
permitted to consider the evidentiary attachments
irrespective of formal compliance with the Ohio Rules of
Evidence. Although the trial ...