Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull
Appeal from the Trumbull County Court, Eastern District. Case
No. 2017 CVI 00120 E.
J. Rudloff, Guarnieri & Secrest, P.L.L., For
Auld, pro se, Defendant-Appellee.
TIMOTHY P. CANNON, JUDGE
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.
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.
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.
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
Thereafter, Mr. Germadnik retained counsel. Upon his request,
the small claims court issued findings of fact and
conclusions of law on November 13, 2017.
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
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.
This matter is now before this court on Mr. Germadnik's
notice of appeal. He has assigned one error for our review:
"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."
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, ...