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Germadnik v. Auld

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull

July 23, 2018

RON GERMADNIK, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ERIN AULD, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Trumbull County Court, Eastern District. Case No. 2017 CVI 00120 E.

          Randil J. Rudloff, Guarnieri & Secrest, P.L.L., For Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Erin Auld, pro se, Defendant-Appellee.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY P. CANNON, JUDGE

         {¶1} Appellant, Ron Germadnik, appeals from a decision of the Trumbull County Court, Eastern District, awarding a judgment in favor of appellee, Erin Auld, in the amount of $4, 445.00, plus costs and interest, in relation to an eviction action and resulting counterclaim.

         {¶2} Mr. Germadnik rented property to Ms. Auld for $485.00 per month. Their agreement provided for late charges of $25.00 per month. Ms. Auld failed to pay the full monthly rent from July 2016 through April 2017; she made several partial payments during that time, which totaled $890.00. On or about April 3, 2017, Mr. Germadnik served Ms. Auld with a three-day notice to leave the premises. He then engaged in the following behavior: on April 3, 2017, he terminated Ms. Auld's electric service; on April 6, 2017, he changed the locks; on April 9, 2017, he removed portions of Ms. Auld's personal property from the rental property and deposited it in her mother's driveway.

         {¶3} On April 25, 2017, Mr. Germadnik filed a claim in the small claims division of the trial court for back rent and late fees in the amount of $4, 625.00, plus interest and costs. Ms. Auld filed a counterclaim on May 15, 2017, alleging damages in the amount of $5, 485.00 for unlawful eviction, trespassing, damaged and stolen property, lost wages, sexual and verbal harassment, and failure to return her security deposit. Neither party was represented by counsel.

         {¶4} A hearing was held on October 10, 2017, the transcript of which has not been provided to this court for review. The small claims court issued a journal entry thereafter, ultimately ruling in favor of Ms. Auld. The court found that Mr. Germadnik was entitled to a total of $4, 210.00 ($3, 960.00 in back rent and $250.00 in late charges) but that Ms. Auld was entitled to $3, 885.00 in compensatory damages plus an award of punitive damages in the amount of $4, 770.00 for "plaintiff's malicious acts in this self help eviction." It was therefore ordered that Mr. Germadnik's award was set off against Ms. Auld's award, resulting in a judgment against Mr. Germadnik in the amount of $4, 445.00, plus costs and interest from October 10, 2017.

         {¶5} Thereafter, Mr. Germadnik retained counsel. Upon his request, the small claims court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law on November 13, 2017.

         {¶6} The court found that, due to Mr. Germadnik's "calculated campaign to remove [Ms. Auld] extra judiciously," Ms. Auld suffered $820.00 in damages to personal property, including items that were either "dumped" in her mother's driveway or not returned; $280.00 in damages to the contents of her freezer that were thawed when electric service was terminated; $300.00 in lost income for two days of work; the $485.00 unreturned security deposit for which no accounting was made, in violation of R.C. 5321.16(B); and $2, 000.00 compensation for "her normal living routine [that] was completely disrupted including the removal and non-return of her mail."

         {¶7} The court further held that Mr. Germadnik "egregiously violated all of the prohibitions of R.C. 5321.15(A) by not only terminating the electric service but also locking [Ms. Auld] out. He, subsequently, disposed of her mail as well as removed some of Defendant's possessions from the leasehold and dumped them in [Ms. Auld's] mother's driveway." It therefore concluded that Mr. Germadnik's "actions were so blatant and calculated as to rise to the level of pure maliciousness," thereby justifying the $4, 770.00 punitive damages award.

         {¶8} This matter is now before this court on Mr. Germadnik's notice of appeal. He has assigned one error for our review:

         {¶9} "The small claims court division erred in holding that appellee was entitled to an award of punitive damages against appellant in the sum of $4, 770.00."

         {¶10} All of Mr. Germadnik's arguments raise questions of law, which are reviewed de novo. Ohio Bell Tel. Co. v. Pub. Util. Comm.,64 Ohio St.3d 145, 147 (1992); see also Wren v. Tutolo, ...


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