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Davila v. Cecchini

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

June 10, 2019

EDWIN DAVILA Plaintiff-Appellant

          Appeal from the Stark County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2016CV01691

          For Plaintiff-Appellant: EDWIN DAVILA, PRO SE

          For Defendant-Appellee: J. MICHAEL GATIEN

          Hon. John W. Wise, P.J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.


          Delaney, J.

         {¶1} Plaintiff-Appellant Edwin Davila appeals the August 6, 2018 judgment entry of the Stark County Court of Common Pleas.


         {¶2} Plaintiff-Appellant Edwin Davila was hired by Avanti Corporation in 2001. The principal of the company, Defendant Gaetano Cecchini, approached Davila and invited him to work for Avanti, though the recitation of facts in Davila's complaint revealed that many of the duties he assumed were personal services for Cecchini. Davila stated he "agreed to work for Cecchini and began employment with Avanti in that spring of 2001." (Amended Complaint, paragraph 12). The complaint described an employee handbook that would govern the "relationship between the employment (sic) between the plaintiff and Avanti during the term of the employment" (Amended Complaint, paragraph 13), but it also stated that his duties would include "responsibilities which may be assigned to him on an ad hoc basis by Cecchini, individually, or through his companies. (Amended Complaint, paragraph 15). Finally, the complaint alleged Davila was "also involved with assisting Cecchini with resolving his improper relationships with certain female employees." (Amended Complaint, paragraph 16).

         {¶3} Defendant-Appellee Jennifer Simpson is the former wife of Cecchini. Davila argued that during settlement negotiations of the contested divorce between Simpson and Cecchini, Simpson requested that Cecchini terminate Davila's employment with Avanti and all of Cecchini's companies. Davila's employment with Avanti was terminated on December 13, 2015 and Davila argued his termination was the direct result of Simpson's request. Cecchini stated Davila's termination was due to "the distressed financial condition of Avanti Corporation and Cecchini Enterprises." (Amended Complaint, paragraph 26).Davila offered documents to support his contention, which he described as two letters from an attorney representing Simpson in the divorce and a responsive letter from Cecchini. Davila also offered a memorandum he drafted after hearing a telephone conversation purportedly between Simpson and Cecchini. The letters were not authenticated by their purported authors and the letter attributed to Cecchini were not signed. Davila offered nothing to authenticate the identity of the party who spoke with Cecchini during the phone call.

         {¶4} Davila also submitted his affidavit containing descriptions of two telephone conversations he witnessed between Cecchini and Simpson, one dated August 2015 and one dated November 2015, in which he contended that Simpson insisted Davila's termination was a critical part of any settlement of the pending complaint for divorce. Davila recalled that Cecchini did not agree with Simpson, but told her they would talk about it later. The identity of the other person on the phone during the calls was not authenticated pursuant to Evid.R. 901(B)(6).

         {¶5} Davila filed a complaint on April 25, 2016 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and named Cecchini, Avanti Corporation, and Cecchini, Inc. as defendants. In his complaint, Davila alleged claims of breach of contract, interference with constitutional rights, defamation, and intimidation of a witness. The defendants moved for a change of venue to Stark County on May 27, 2016. After the exchange of several pleadings, the court granted the motion on July 15, 2016.

         {¶6} The case was scheduled for a telephonic pretrial conference on September 6, 2016. At the conference the trial court set deadlines and included within its order the following language: "plaintiff to strike extraneous statements from complaint within 30 days." No explanation is contained within the record regarding the trial court's intent. Davila filed an amended complaint on October 5, 2016 and named Simpson as a defendant. His amended complaint included a quote from Dante's Inferno and alleged claims of tortious interference with an employment contract, malicious refusal to pay medical bills incurred in connection with work related injury, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, fraud, breach of employment agreement, spoliation of evidence, interference with constitutional rights, defamation, intimidation of a witness, and violations of the Ohio Corrupt Activity Statutes.

         {¶7} On November 1, 2016, Davila dismissed all claims against Cecchini, Avanti Corporation and Cecchini, Inc., leaving Simpson as the remaining defendant. Against Simpson, Davila claimed tortious interference with an employment contract.

         {¶8} Simpson filed an answer and counterclaim on January 17, 2017, alleging Davila's amended complaint was frivolous under Civ.R. 11 and R.C. 2323.51. On April 18, 2017, Davila filed a motion to disqualify Simpson's trial counsel, claiming Davila planned to call him as a witness. Simpson opposed the motion and filed a motion for leave to file an amended answer. The motion requesting leave to file an amended answer was granted. Prior to the trial court issuing a ruling on the motion to disqualify, new counsel entered an appearance on behalf of Simpson on May 12, 2017, making the motion to disqualify moot.

         {¶9} Simpson filed her amended answer on May 12, 2017 and scheduled the deposition of Davila. Davila's deposition was completed on June 1, ...

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