Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking
STEPHEN A. CAMPBELL Plaintiff-Appellant
LICKING HEIGHTS LOCAL S.D., et al Defendants-Appellees 2019-Ohio-2775
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2018 CV 00488
Plaintiff-Appellant STEPHEN A. CAMPBELL PRO SE
Defendants-Appellees YMCA & Gibson MICHAEL R. HENRY
CRABBE, BROWN & JAMES LLP
Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia
A. Delaney, J.
Plaintiff-Appellant Stephen A. Campbell appeals the decision
of the Court of Common Pleas, Licking County, which granted
summary judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees Licking
County Family YMCA and Brianna Michelle Gibson in a libel
action filed by appellant. The relevant facts leading to this
appeal are as follows.
Events of February 14, 2018
According to the underlying civil complaint in this matter,
Appellant Campbell went to Licking Heights South Elementary
School (LHSE) on February 14, 2018, in order to deliver a
Valentine's Day present to his daughter, who was at that
location participating in an after-school program run by the
YMCA. At the time, appellant and his ex-wife, Nichole
Campbell, were involved in adversarial proceedings in a
domestic relations matter in Franklin County, Ohio.
Appellant asserted in his aforementioned complaint that he
took the gift (a balloon and homemade cookies) to the school
office and then departed the premises immediately. It appears
undisputed that he had no interaction with his daughter
during this visit to the school. However, one of the YMCA
employees, Kathalyn Gensler-Nic, observed that the daughter,
visibly upset by the gift, subsequently threw most of it
away. See Gensler-Nic Tr. at 15.
Events of March 15, 2018
Approximately one month later, appellant found out that
Gensler-Nic's name had come up on an amended witness list
prepared by appellant's ex-wife's attorney in the
Franklin County domestic relations case, concerning an
"[i]ncident in 2018 when [appellant] came to the
child's school." See Plaintiff's
Complaint Exhibit A.
According to the underlying complaint in the present case,
appellant went to LHSE again on the afternoon of March 15,
2018, this time to discuss the aforesaid matter with
Gensler-Nic. Complaint at paragraph 14. Gensler-Nic later
recalled that during their discussion, appellant referred to
his ex-wife as "the devil." Franklin County Tr. at
Appellant also told Gensler-Nic that he would be obtaining a
subpoena for her for participation in future proceedings.
Gensler-Nic felt uncomfortable during the aforesaid
conversation, and she reported the encounter with appellant
to her YMCA supervisors. As a result, Gensler-Nic completed
and signed two internal YMCA "incident reports,"
one concerning February 14, 2108, and one concerning March
Events of March 22, 2018
On March 22, 2018, appellant went to LHSE a third time, this
time to deliver a subpoena to Gensler-Nic. On this occasion,
the front doors to the school had already been locked. As
appellant waited outside, his daughter saw him from inside
and began to cry. Brianna Gibson, another YMCA employee, then
went to the front entrance and partially opened one of the
doors. Appellant asked to speak to Gensler-Nic, but Gibson
informed him she was not available. Gibson asked him twice to
leave, and he did so after the second request. Franklin
County Tr. at 45-47.
After speaking with her supervisors, Gibson contacted law
enforcement. A Pataskala police officer arrived and took a
report. Gibson also completed and signed internal YMCA
On May 7, 2018, Appellant Campbell filed a pro se
civil complaint in the Licking County Court of Common Pleas
("trial court") against the Licking Heights Local
School District, Philip Wagner, Ph.D., the Licking County
YMCA Foundation, Brianna Gibson, and Nichole Campbell. The
complaint set forth two causes of action: (1) Filing a False
Police Report and (2) Libel.
Appellees Licking County YMCA Foundation (also identified in
the record as Licking County Family YMCA) and Brianna Gibson
filed an answer on May 23, 2018.
In July 2018, the school district, Dr. Wagner, and Nichole
Campbell were all dismissed from the lawsuit by order of the
On November 29, 2018, Licking County Family YMCA and Brianna
Gibson (hereinafter "appellees") jointly filed a
motion for summary judgment. Appellant filed a memorandum
contra on December 17, 2018. Appellees filed a reply
memorandum on December 19, 2018. Appellant filed a surreply
on December 24, 2018.
On January 10, 2019, the trial court issued a judgment entry