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Doff v. Lipford

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Stark

June 10, 2019

MICHAEL D. DOFF Plaintiff-Appellant
RONALD C. LIPFORD Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the Municipal Court, Case No. 2018-CVF-4127

          For Plaintiff-Appellant MICHAEL D. DOFF, PRO SE 118 12th Street Parkersburg, WV 26101

          JUDGES: Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, P.J. Hon. Craig R. Baldwin, J. Hon. Earle E. Wise, Jr., J.


          Wise, Earle, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant Michael D. Doff appeals the January 4, 2019 judgment of the Canton Municipal Court of Stark County Ohio granting judgment against defendant-appellee in the amount of $40.00.


         {¶ 2} Doff is from Parkersburg West Virginia, but was traveling through Canton, Ohio when he experienced trouble with his 1997 Jeep Cherokee. He took the vehicle to a mechanic who had the Jeep for three to four months before experiencing some "personal issues" ceasing work on the vehicle. Doff then found appellee Lipford on Craig's List. He had the inoperable Jeep towed to Lipford's place of business, Certified Auto & Truck in Canton on May 25, 2018.

         {¶ 3} According to exhibits contained in the record, the Jeep was in pieces when delivered to Lipford and had actual mileage of 393, 036. Doff's exhibit 1, the work order for the Jeep indicates Doff requested Lipford to "check overhead, replace timing chain and put all parts put back on vehicle." The work order also indicates that Lipford's labor rate was $40 an hour, including finding parts, and that every 5 hours of labor must be paid before work would progress. Doff paid Lipford $40 upfront for a diagnostic.

         {¶ 4} On May 29, 2018, Lipford texted Doff to inform him some parts were missing and that he needed to begin work on the Jeep as soon as possible because it was tying up one of his bays. In response, Doff directed Lipford to set up a Paypal account so that he could send him money. Lipford was unable to set up a Paypal account.

         {¶ 5} On May 30, 2018, Doff directed Lipford to go get a radiator for the Jeep from a scrap yard for $50. Doff stated he would send Lipford $200 to get that accomplished. Lipford indicated that would be a start on parts but needed payment for labor and asked Doff to send $400. Doff asked if that would cover the cost of putting the Jeep back together and Lipford indicated it would not as there was too much to do and there would be a lot of time involved to get the vehicle running again. Doff replied to just put the parts back on the vehicle and see what it needed from there. Lipford again requested payment. The following day, Doff texted Lipford directing him to put the Jeep outside with the key in it and he would have it picked up. Lipford replied that he was still owed for the time he spent on the vehicle and Doff disagreed, alleging that Lipford had done nothing beyond the diagnostic and again requested he put the Jeep outside. Lipford reiterated what he was owed and added there would be a storage fee of $35 for each day the Jeep remained at his place of business. He advised Doff to pay what he owed and he would get his vehicle back. Doff requested his vehicle again, threatened legal recourse, and to report Lipford to "departments that deal with zoning, taxation, and environmental." Lipford again advised Doff to pay his bill and pick up his vehicle.

         {¶ 6} Instead of doing so, on July 17, 2018, Doff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in the Canton Municipal Court alleging violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA).

         {¶ 7} The complaint consisted of a short paragraph entitled "Complaint", a section entitled "Statement of the Case," and a section entitled "Statement of Facts." In the sections entitled "Complaint" and "Statement of the Case" Doff appeared to raise three specific violations. First, Doff alleged that Lipford held himself out as a" "certified" auto repair facility, with specific reference to automotive air conditioning refrigerant work and other services, in his solicitation of the public for his auto repair services." But in fact, Doff alleged, Lipford lacked the "legally required certification to perform air conditioning refrigerant work, and lacks legal "certification" and/or registration for other aspects of his business operation in violation of state and local legal statutes. . ." Doff further alleged Lipford was in violation of Canton City zoning ordinances which prohibit the operation of an auto repair shop at Lipford's current location. Doff alleged these facts placed Lipford in violation of R.C. 1345.02(B)(9).

         {¶ 8} Next Doff alleged Lipford had failed to register a fictitious business name with the state of Ohio in violation of R.C. 1345.02(G).

         {¶ 9} Finally, Doff alleged Lipford violated R.C. 1345.02(A) by deliberately and willfully failing to perform services promised to Doff, engaged in fraudulent misrepresentation of work performed, and added additional "bogus labor time charges, as well as after-the-fact "storage charges," not posted or otherwise previously described by defendant. . .."

         {¶ 10} Doff requested that the trial court award him the alleged replacement value of the Jeep - $1767 - plus $40 for payment made for services not delivered, and further alleged he was entitled to treble damages pursuant to R.C. 1345.09(B) for a total of $5421. Also pursuant to R.C. 1345.09(B), Doff claimed $5000 in noneconomic damages for "mental anguish and emotional distress inflicted on Plaintiff for the intentional and malicious fraudulent activity of Defendant."

         {¶ 11} Doff never amended his complaint, nor his requested relief.

         {¶ 12} On August 20, 2018, Lipford, also proceeding pro se, filed a response denying Doff's allegations and attaching numerous exhibits including a bid from Canton Auto Salvage setting the salvage value of the Jeep at $125.

         {¶ 13} On October 30, 2018, Doff filed a motion for summary judgment. On November 11, 2018, Lipford filed a reply. Doff responded on December 7, 2018.

         {¶ 14} On December 13, 2018, the trial court denied Doff's motion for summary judgment.

         {¶ 15} The matter proceeded to a bench trial on December 18, 2018. Doff appeared pro se, testified on his own behalf, and submitted several exhibits including a list of several 1997 Jeep Cherokee's listed for sale on various websites, none of which were listed as inoperable or disassembled. He felt his vehicle was worth $2000. Doff also presented evidence that Lipford had been the subject of complaints by neighbors regarding zoning violations as his property was zoned for auto sales, but not auto repair, and that he held no certifications from the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (NIASE). Doff presented Lipford's Craig's List ad which indicates he is an expert in automotive air conditioning. Doff further requested noneconomic damages in the amount of $5000 because he discovered Lipford had a previous conviction for menacing and he felt his interaction with Lipford "was along the same type of level of menacing and attempting intimidation . . .."

         {¶ 16} Lipford failed to appear for trial.

         {¶ 17} On January 4, 2019 the trial court issued its judgment entry. The trial court found that Doff was a consumer engaged in a consumer transaction and that Lipford was a supplier. Against that background the court found Lipford's act of holding himself out as certified in certain automobile repairs when he does not hold an affiliation with a certification program was a deceptive consumer sales practice in violation of R.C. 1345.02(B)(9). The trial court also found, however, that Doff had failed to establish that Lipford had committed an unconscionable act or practice in connection with the consumer transaction. The trial court found Doff had established damages in the amount of $40, but had failed to establish any other noneconomic damages. Finally, the trial court found Doff had brought no action to recover his vehicle. The trial court therefore awarded Doff $40 plus interest and court costs.

         {¶ 18} On January 31, 2019, Doff filed an appeal. The matter is now before this court for consideration. He raises seven assignments of error as follow:



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