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Blakely v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Ninth District, Summit

June 28, 2019

LYNN BLAKELY, Executrix for the Estate of GARRY BLAKELY Appellant
v.
THE GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO. Appellee

          APPEAL FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF SUMMIT, OHIO CASE No. AC2017-01-0225

          JESSICA M. BACON, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.

          RICHARD D. SCHUSTER and DAMIEN KITTE, Attorneys at Law, for Appellee.

          DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY

          TEODOSIO, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} Lynn Blakely, executrix for the estate of Garry Blakely, appeals the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment in favor of The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. We reverse and remand.

         I.

         {¶2} Beginning in 1946, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company ("Goodyear") leased premises known as Plant B to Goodyear Aerospace Corporation ("Aerospace"). In 1967, Garry Blakely worked for Aerospace at Plant B, which included both the Vinyl Division, a division of Goodyear, and the Wheel and Brake Division, a division of Aerospace. Both divisions were involved in the manufacture of aircraft brake assemblies. Brake linings were formed in the Vinyl Division and then taken to the Wheel and Brake Division where the linings were drilled, shaped, and incorporated into brake assemblies. Mr. Blakely worked in the Wheel and Brake Division.

         {¶3} In 2014, Mr. Blakely was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. He subsequently filed a complaint for asbestos exposure against multiple defendants, including Goodyear, which was named both individually and as a successor-in-interest to Aerospace. The complaint included claims for product liability, supplier liability, and premises liability. Goodyear filed motions for summary judgment on these claims, which were granted by the trial court; however, Mr. Blakely dismissed the case prior to any final judgment.

         {¶4} In 2017, Mr. Blakely's estate ("the estate") refiled the action against Goodyear. The trial court again granted summary judgment in favor of Goodyear on the claims for product liability, supplier liability, and premises liability, and issued its final order on July 11, 2017. The estate now appeals, raising four assignments of error.

         II.

         {¶5} Appellate review of an award of summary judgment is de novo. Grafton v. Ohio Edison Co., 77 Ohio St.3d 102, 105 (1996). Summary judgment is appropriate under Civ.R. 56 when: (1) no genuine issue as to any material fact remains to be litigated; (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) viewing the evidence most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party, reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion and that conclusion is adverse to the nonmoving party. Temple v. Wean United, Inc., 50 Ohio St.2d 317, 327 (1977), citing Civ.R. 56(C). A court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve any doubt in favor of the non-moving party. Murphy v. Reynoldsburg, 65 Ohio St.3d 356, 358-359 (1992). A trial court does not have the liberty to choose among reasonable inferences in the context of summary judgment, and all competing inferences and questions of credibility must be resolved in the nonmoving party's favor. Perez v. Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Co., 35 Ohio St.3d 215, 218 (1988).

          {¶6} The Supreme Court of Ohio has set forth the nature of this burden-shifting paradigm:

[A] party seeking summary judgment, on the ground that the nonmoving party cannot prove its case, bears the initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for the motion, and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact on the essential element(s) of the nonmoving party's claims. The moving party cannot discharge its initial burden under Civ.R. 56 simply by making a conclusory assertion that the nonmoving party has no evidence to prove its case. Rather, the moving party must be able to specifically point to some evidence of the type listed in Civ.R. 56(C) which affirmatively demonstrates that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support the nonmoving party's claims. If the moving party fails to satisfy its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. However, if the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the nonmoving party then has a reciprocal burden outlined in Civ.R. 56(E) to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial and, if the nonmovant does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the nonmoving party.

Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 293 (1996).

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR ONE

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT RULED ON MOTIONS NOT FILED IN THE INSTANT CASE AND ADOPTED RULINGS FROM A PREVIOUSLY DISMISSED CASE IN VIOLATION OF OHIO CIVIL RULE 41(A).

         {¶7} In its first assignment of error, the estate argues the trial court erred in ruling on a motion filed in the previously dismissed case and in adopting its analysis and rulings from that case. We disagree.

         {¶8} On March 24, 2017, Goodyear filed a "NOTICE OF FILING CERTIFIED COPIES OF DOCUMENTS PREVIOUSLY FILED IN BLAKELY V. GOODYEAR TIRE, SUMMIT COUNTY CASE NO. AC 2014-07-3155." Included among these documents were motions for partial summary judgment on Mr. Blakely's claims for premises liability, product liability, and supplier liability; the response and reply briefs to said motions; related exhibits; and the trial court's rulings. Also filed on March 24, 2017, was the "MOTION OF THE GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON CLAIMS PREVIOUSLY RULED ON BY THIS COURT." In its motion, Goodyear requested that the trial court adopt its previous rulings and grant summary judgment in favor of Goodyear on the estate's refiled claims for premises liability, products liability, and supplier liability. The motion incorporated Goodyear's motions for partial summary judgment filed in the prior case, along with all associated briefings. The estate filed a brief in opposition, and Goodyear followed with a reply brief.

         {¶9} In its judgment entry, the trial court noted that in support of its motion for summary judgment, Goodyear filed certified copies of the relevant portions of the record and transcripts from the prior case. The court further noted that the estate had "responded in opposition" and that "all matters [had] been fully briefed and supplemented with evidence for review." The trial court proceeded to grant summary judgment in favor of Goodyear on all claims. In its analysis of each claim, the trial court noted that it adopted its previous analysis and decision from its entries in the prior case, which were attached as exhibits and incorporated by the text of the opinion. In addition, the trial court added new analysis, and entered judgment independently of its prior entries.

         {¶10} Contrary to the estate's assertion, Goodyear filed a motion for summary judgment in the re-filed case. Furthermore, the trial court noted that the estate had responded in opposition and with supplemented evidence for the court's review. We are cognizant of the fact that the trial court could not rely on its previous judgments for the purposes of res judicata, but it did not do so here. These prior entries were attached and incorporated for the content of their analysis, rather than the force of their judgment. The trial court entered judgment independent of the exhibits and did not merely adopt the judgment from a past entry.

         {¶11} The estate's first assignment of error is overruled.

         ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR TWO

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED WHEN IT GRANTED SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PREMISES LIABILITY PURSUANT ...

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