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Royal Fleet Auto Sales, L.L.C. v. Chambers

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

June 6, 2019

ROYAL FLEET AUTO SALES, L.L.C., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ANNA CHAMBERS, ET AL., Defendants-Appellants.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-15-846578

          Critchfield Critchfield & Johnston, Ltd., and Monica E. Russell, for appellee.

          Henderson & Schmidlin Co., L.P.A., Timothy L. McGarry, and Brendan Mewhinney, for appellant.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, JR., J.

         {¶ 1} Defendant-appellant, Anna Chambers ("Chambers"), brings the instant appeal challenging the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff-appellee, Royal Fleet Auto Sales, L.L.C. ("Royal Fleet"). After a thorough review of the record and law, this court dismisses the appeal.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On June 4, 2015, Royal Fleet filed a complaint in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas seeking a declaratory judgment and an order quieting title against Chambers in real property located at 7911 Lorain Avenue, in Cleveland, Ohio ("property"). Royal Fleet also asserted a claim against the party from which it purchased the property from, 7911 Lorain Avenue, L.L.C. ("7911 L.L.C."), alleging a breach of warranty deed and a claim for indemnity. The property consists of a small office building, a garage, and a parking lot. Chambers's husband, Richard Chambers, owned and operated Rick's Trading Post, a used car sales business, on the property.

         {¶ 3} Royal Fleet purchased the property from 7911 L.L.C. on February 3, 2015. Royal Fleet currently operates a used car lot at 7825 Lorain Avenue, directly adjacent to the property. Royal Fleet has operated its used car lot since 1998 and is owned by Theodore Siedlecki, Jr. ("Siedlecki"). In the months prior to the February 3rd sale of the property, Siedlecki noticed a "for sale" sign on the property. The property appeared vacant to Siedlecki, and he had not observed any business conducted on the property since 2002. After seeing the "for sale" sign, Siedlecki contacted his realtor[1] to inquire as to the owner of the property. The contact number on the "for sale" sign was a phone number apparently belonging to Gary Green ("Green"). A title search conducted by Siedlecki's realtor revealed that 7911 L.L.C. held title to the property.

         {¶ 4} Thereafter, Siedlecki and his realtor were shown the property by Green. Green is the owner of 7911 L.L.C. The purchase price of the property was $85, 000, and Siedlecki eventually made an offer of $50, 000. Green accepted Siedlecki's offer of $50, 000, and on January 28, 2015, Siedlecki, acting on behalf of Royal Fleet, entered into a purchase agreement to buy the property.

         {¶ 5} The parties used Resource Title National Agency, Inc. ("title agency") to perform escrow and title agent duties. The title agency performed a title examination and this examination also found that 7911 L.L.C. held title to the property. The title examination also discovered that 7911 L.L.C. had obtained title to the property from Riverside Castle Hall Company ("Riverside") on December 30, 2014. The deed transferring the property from Riverside to 7911 L.L.C. was signed by Dennis Walker on behalf of Riverside. The title agency thereafter obtained a certificate of incumbency[2] that stated that Dennis Walker was the CEO of Riverside. Green, acting on behalf of 7911 L.L.C, averred in an affidavit that no other individual had possession of, or a right to possess, the property. Thereafter, 7911 L.L.C. and Royal Fleet closed on the transaction on February 3, 2015, and a general warranty deed conveying the property from 7911 L.L.C. to Royal Fleet was filed on the same day.

         {¶ 6} On February 17, 2015, Siedlecki received a letter from Chambers's attorney stating that Chambers had purchased the property in the 1980s but "the property was never transferred into her name on the [c]ounty [r]ecords." Chambers's attorney further stated that "the property needs to be transferred to [Chambers's] name immediately."

         {¶ 7} Thereafter, on June 4, 2015, Royal Fleet filed its complaint against Chambers and 7911 L.L.C. On July 15, 2015, Chambers filed an answer and counterclaim against Royal Fleet seeking to quiet title against Royal Fleet and a declaratory judgment. Chambers brought these claims through her power of attorney, her son Ken Chambers. 7911 L.L.C. failed to file an answer and failed to appear in the action. As a result, Royal Fleet filed a default judgment motion against 7911 L.L.C. on July 28, 2015. A hearing on the default judgment motion was set for August 11, 2015. Royal Fleet and Chambers appeared for the hearing, but 7911 L.L.C. failed to appear.

         {¶ 8} On August 12, 2015, the magistrate issued an order granting Royal Fleet's default judgment motion and ordered Royal Fleet to file a final judicial report. The magistrate's order also included the following:

After the case was called [for the hearing on the default judgment motion], and counsel for [Chambers] had left the building, [Green] the statutory agent for [7911 L.L.C] appeared. The magistrate went back on the record with [Green, the] statutory agent and [Royal Fleet's] counsel. [Green, the] statutory agent advised the ...

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