Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga
BENESCH, FRIEDLANDER, COPLAN & ARONOFF, L.L.C., Plaintiff-Appellee,
TERRI JOCHUM, Defendant-Appellant.
Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case
A. Friedlander, for appellee.
Lynch,  for appellant.
JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION
EILEEN KILBANE, ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE.
1} Defendant-appellant, Terri Jochum
("Jochum"), appeals from the trial court's
decision granting summary judgment in favor of
plaintiff-appellee, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan &
Aronoff, L.L.C. ("Benesch"). For the reasons set
forth below, we affirm.
2} This appeal arises from a collection action filed
by Benesch for unpaid legal services rendered to Jochum.
Benesch alleges that as of June 15, 2015, Jochum owed it $73,
073.54. In response, Jochum filed an answer and counterclaim.
Jochum alleged that there was no balance due and
counterclaimed Benesch for legal malpractice. Jochum also
separately filed a cross-claim against "newly identified
defendant Mark Young for legal malpractice." No
instructions, however, were ever issued to the clerk to
effect service upon Mark Young ("Young").
3} After discovery was completed, Benesch moved for
summary judgment. Benesch argued that Jochum failed to pay
for a variety of legal fees incurred from March 11, 2013
through May 29, 2015, and the last possible date for accrual
of any legal malpractice claim was well beyond the one-year
4} Jochum first retained Benesch in August 2012 when
she signed an engagement letter with Benesch attorney,
Deviani Kuhar ("Kuhar"), for legal services
relating to business succession planning matters. Jochum
later executed a second engagement letter in February 2013
between Jochum and Young for representation in a lawsuit
filed against Jochum in Lake County, Ohio ("Lake County
Case"). Young was lead litigation counsel for Jochum for
approximately six months (February 4, 2013 through August 16,
2013). At that time, Jochum decided to retain a Lake County
based law firm to represent her in the Lake County Case
instead of Young. The Lake County law firm filed a notice of
substitution of counsel on August 16, 2013. Pursuant to that
substitution of counsel, Benesch provided the legal file to
new counsel, and Young had no further contact with Jochum
regarding the Lake County Case. In addition, no further legal
services were rendered by Young after August 2013.
5} In support of its motion, Benesch attached the
affidavits of Kuhar and Young to substantiate the legal
services it rendered to Jochum. Kuhar stated she
substantially reduced the time on her bills. Her work
included, on a flat-fee basis, the preparation of an Ohio
Legacy Trust, an estate planning vehicle. Young stated that
the Lake County Case was a highly contested business dispute,
which involved significant litigation activity. The case
included a counterclaim brought against Jochum, a motion for
temporary restraining order, and significant written
Jochum opposed Benesch's motion. The only documentation
Jochum included with her opposition was her own affidavit. In
her affidavit, Jochum stated that she met with Kuhar sometime
in the summer of 2013. According to Jochum, in that meeting,
Kuhar apologized to Jochum for the negligent way she had been
represented by Benesch. Jochum also averred that Kuhar also
told Jochum that she would not be responsible for payment of
any further legal fees beyond what had already been paid and
referred her to the Lake County law firm for the handling of
her Lake County Case.
7} The trial court granted Benesch's motion for
summary judgment and awarded Benesch $73, 073.54, plus court
costs and statutory interest from the date of judgment. The
trial court also dismissed Jochum's cross-claim against
Young for failure to prosecute, noting that there was no
service on Young.
8} Jochum now appeals, raising the following single
assignment of error for review:
The trial court committed error in granting summary judgment
when the law firm told [Jochum] that she owed nothing to the
firm because of the firm not performing the services ...