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Brown v. Christianson

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery

July 19, 2019

MEARL BROWN Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
MARILYN CHRISTIANSON Defendant-Appellee

          Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No. 2017-CV-658.

          DOUGLAS D. BRANNON, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          ANTHONY P. McNAMARA, and GEORGE JONSON, Attorneys for Defendant-Appellee.

          OPINION

          TUCKER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Mearl Brown, appeals from the trial court's judgment of October 23, 2018, in which the court dismissed his complaint on the motion of Defendant-appellee, the late Marilyn Christianson. Presenting three assignments of error, Brown argues that the trial court erred by finding that Christianson, a court reporter, was shielded from civil liability by judicial immunity, by statutory immunity, or by both types of immunity. As well, Brown argues that the trial court erred by vacating its earlier entry of default judgment against Christianson in response to her motion for relief from judgment under Civ.R. 60(B). We find that the trial court did not err by sustaining Christianson's motion to dismiss or by sustaining her motion for relief from judgment, although our reasoning regarding the former motion differs somewhat from that of the trial court. The trial court's judgment of October 23, 2018, is therefore affirmed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} In Case No. 2006 DR 01337, a magistrate held a hearing on the allocation of parental rights between Brown and Brown's ex-wife that comprised parts of three days: June 27, 2016; July 5, 2016; and August 16, 2016. Christianson served as the court reporter for the hearing.

         {¶ 3} The magistrate issued a decision on September 2, 2016, after which Brown's ex-wife filed objections on September 16, 2016, accompanied by a praecipe for a transcript. Brown did not offer any objections of his own. On November 4, 2016, the domestic relations division of the common pleas court filed an entry and order in which it noted that the transcript of the hearing was "not available to the court for review at [that] time," and it therefore ordered the magistrate to hold a new hearing. Entry & Order Resetting Hearing 2, Nov. 4, 2016.

         {¶ 4} In Case No. 2017 CV 00658, Brown filed a complaint against Christianson on February 8, 2017, seeking damages on causes of action for negligence and breach of contract. Essentially, Brown alleged that if Christianson had timely produced a transcript of the original hearing, then the domestic relations division would not have ordered a new hearing, and he claimed accordingly that Christianson should be liable to him for attorney's fees, lost income and other damages that he otherwise would have avoided. Christianson did not answer or otherwise respond to the complaint, and the trial court entered default judgment in Brown's favor on April 3, 2017.

         {¶ 5} On May 30, 2017, Christianson filed a motion for relief from judgment under Civ.R. 60(B). The matter was referred to a magistrate, who recommended that the motion be sustained, and on April 24, 2018, the trial court adopted the magistrate's recommendation.

         {¶ 6} Having been granted leave, Brown filed an amended complaint on May 4, 2018, retaining the cause of action for negligence and omitting the cause of action for breach of contract.[1] Christianson filed a motion for dismissal under Civ.R. 12(B)(6) on May 21, 2018. The matter was again referred to a magistrate, who recommended that the motion to dismiss be overruled, but in its judgment of October 23, 2018, the trial court rejected the recommendation and sustained the motion. Brown timely filed his notice of appeal on October 30, 2018.

         II. Analysis

         {¶ 7} We begin our analysis with Brown's third assignment of error because the reversal of the trial court's decision sustaining Christianson's motion for relief from judgment would, if warranted, render the first and second assignments moot. For his third assignment of error, Brown contends that:

THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN GRANTING RELIEF FROM DEFAULT JUDGMENT TO THE DEFENDANT UNDER CIV.R. 60(B).

         {¶ 8} Brown argues that the trial court erred by sustaining Christianson's motion for relief from judgment because Christianson did not meet her obligation under Civ.R. 60(B) to show that she could offer a meritorious defense to his complaint against her. See Appellant's Brief 13-14. As well, he argues that the trial court erred by finding that Christianson should be granted relief from judgment pursuant to Civ.R. ...


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