Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Walter T. Madison Diana Marie Feitl
Lucas K. Palmer Roetzel & Andress, L.P.A.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE Thomas L. Colaluca
BEFORE: Keough, J., Kilbane, P.J., and Stewart, J.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, J.
Defendant-appellant, C.A.S.T.L.E. High School, Inc.
("CASTLE") appeals from the trial court's
judgment that granted default judgment in favor of
plaintiff-appellee, Sunshine Limited Partnership
("Sunshine"), and entered judgment against CASTLE
in the amount of $379, 993.73 in damages and $103, 821.95 in
attorney fees. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and
CASTLE is an Ohio nonprofit corporation operating a charter
school within the Cleveland Municipal School District. In
2004, CASTLE entered into an agreement with Sunshine to lease
property owned by Sunshine to house its school. In 2010, the
agreement was extended through October 2014. In August 2014,
CASTLE advised Sunshine that it would not be renewing the
In July 2015, Sunshine filed suit against CASTLE and various
individual defendants for breach of contract, promissory
estoppel, and fraud. CASTLE answered the complaint and
asserted various affirmative defenses and a counterclaim for
declaratory judgment that the lease was void and for fraud.
The trial court subsequently granted the motions to dismiss
of the individual defendants, leaving CASTLE as the sole
At a case management conference, the trial court set various
dates, including deadlines for discovery and dispositive
motions, as well as for a final pretrial to be held on June
In early February 2016, Sunshine filed a motion to compel
discovery from CASTLE, asserting that it had served its first
discovery requests on CASTLE in December 2015, but CASTLE had
not yet responded. The trial court granted the motion and
ordered CASTLE to produce the requested discovery within 14
days of the date of its order. CASTLE did not produce the
requested discovery, however, and in March 2016, Sunshine
filed a motion to dismiss CASTLE's counterclaim and for
sanctions as a result of CASTLE's failure to comply with
the court's order. In its response, CASTLE asserted that
it had not yet responded because the requests were
"voluminous" and it was trying to locate the
documents. The court met with the attorneys in March 2016, to
resolve the discovery dispute and apparently granted CASTLE
more time to comply with Sunshine's discovery requests.
It denied Sunshine's motion to dismiss and for sanctions.
In April 2016, both Sunshine and CASTLE filed motions for
summary judgment. Sunshine also filed a renewed motion to
dismiss CASTLE's counterclaim and for sanctions,
asserting that although CASTLE had responded to its discovery
requests, the responses were inadequate. The trial court did
not rule on either the motions for summary judgment or
Sunshine's motion to dismiss.
Instead, it held a settlement conference on June 20, 2016.
Counsel for CASTLE appeared for the conference but without a
client who had authority to settle the case. As a result, the
trial court set a settlement conference for June 27, 2016,
ordering that "all parties with ultimate binding
settlement authority must be present in person." When
counsel for CASTLE was an hour late for the conference, the
trial court entered default judgment in favor of Sunshine.
The court's journal entry states:
Settlement conference held 6/27/16 at 10:30 a.m. Counsel for
the plaintiff was present. Counsel for the defendant failed
to appear. The court waited for defendant's counsel to
appear for one hour before granting default. This settlement
conference was set because defendant did not come to a
previously scheduled settlement conference with proper
authority to settle this matter, as required by court order.
Counsel for defendant was informed that any further failures
to abide by the court orders would result in default.
Accordingly, defendant's counsel's failure to appear
on time hereby results in default being granted for the
plaintiff. A default hearing on damages only is hereby set
for 08/04/16 at 10:00 a.m. Parties should be prepared to
present evidence of the damages in this matter at that time,
and/or have authority, in person, to ...