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Middletown App., Ltd. v. Singer

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Twelfth District, Butler

June 17, 2019

MIDDLETOWN APP., LTD., Appellee,
v.
STEVE SINGER, et al., Appellants.

          CIVIL APPEAL FROM BUTLER COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS Case No. CV2018-03-0661

          Christopher Wiest, Suite for appellee

          Doucet & Associates, Co., L.P.A., Marcelle Rose Anthony, for appellants

          OPINION

          PIPER, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellants, Steve and Aaron Singer, appeal a decision of the Butler County Court of Common Pleas denying their motion for relief from a default judgment granted to appellee, Middletown App. Ltd. ("MAL").

         {¶ 2} Steve and Aaron are father and son. Aaron agreed to purchase a mobile home located on MAL property in Middletown, Ohio, and asked his father for help in moving it. When the Singers arrived in Ohio to relocate the mobile home, MAL employees blocked the removal because they claimed the mobile home's owner owed the company back rent. The Singers paid $500 to the MAL employees to address the back-rent, but the employees continued to deny removal until the Singers called police. Subsequent to the police being called, MAL employees allowed the Singers to take the mobile home.

         {¶ 3} A few months later, Steve received a complaint from MAL alleging trespass and property damage. MAL requested $10, 000 in initial property damage and moved for treble damages, punitive damages, and a permanent injunction. MAL alleged that Aaron and Steve trespassed when they came to remove the mobile home because 10 years previously, it had sent a letter to Steve informing him that he was not permitted on MAL property.

         {¶ 4} While Steve never denied he received service of the complaint, Aaron claimed he was never served. Even so, Steve informed Aaron of the suit, and Aaron averred that he contacted the court regarding the suit. A status conference was set for July 23, 2018, which Steve and Aaron averred they were going to attend despite their difficulty in obtaining legal counsel in Ohio.

         {¶ 5} Prior to the status conference, on July 10, 2018, MAL moved for default judgment because Steve and Aaron had not filed an answer. The trial court granted the default judgment six days later on July 16, 2018, awarding MAL $86, 800. These damages included $10, 000 in property damages trebled to $30, 000 according to R.C. 2307.61, punitive damages of $50, 000, and attorney fees of $6, 800. Steve and Aaron employed Ohio counsel and filed a motion for relief from judgment according to Civ.R. 60(B). Within the motion, Aaron claimed that he never received service, and together, he and Steve claimed excusable neglect and a meritorious defense.

         {¶ 6} The trial court denied the motion without first holding an evidentiary hearing. Within the trial court's denial, it found that service was proper on Aaron and that the Singers failed to demonstrate excusable neglect or a meritorious defense. The Singers now appeal the trial court's decision, raising two assignments of error.

         {¶ 7} Assignment of Error No. 1:

         {¶ 8} THE TRIAL COURT ERRED DENYING APPELLANS [SIC] 60(B) MOTION.

         {¶ 9} The Singers argue in their first assignment of error that the trial court erred by denying their motion for relief from default judgment.

         {¶ 10} Civ.R. 60(B) provides that the trial court may relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or ...


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