Court of Appeals of Ohio, Second District, Montgomery
Appeal from Common Pleas Court Trial Court Case No.
DOUGLAS D. BRANNON, Attorney for Plaintiff-Appellant.
ANTHONY P. McNAMARA, and GEORGE JONSON, Attorneys for
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.
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
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. 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.
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. ...