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Lane v. Griffith

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula

August 26, 2019

DANIEL LANE, et al, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
ARLENE GRIFFITH, Defendant-Appellee.

          Civil Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2017 CV 0779.

         Judgment Affirmed.

          L Bryan Carr, Carr, Feneli & Carbone Co., L.P.A., (For Plaintiff-Appellants).

          Jane Timonere, Timonere Law Offices, LLC, (For Defendant-Appellee).

          OPINION

          MARY JANE TRAPP, J.

         {¶1} Appellants, Daniel and Jodie Lane (collectively referred to as the "Lanes"), appeal the March 20, 2019 judgment of the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, which denied the Lanes' motion for attorney fees and sanctions against appellee, Arlene Griffith ("Mrs. Griffith"). The trial court found Mrs. Griffith's conduct was neither unreasonable nor the result of frivolous conduct.

         {¶2} The Lanes raise one assignment of error on appeal, arguing the trial court erred in overruling their motion for attorney fees and sanctions pursuant to Civ.R. 11 and R.C. 2323.51 because Mrs. Griffith and her counsel were dilatory, frivolous, and acted in bad faith since they had no defense to the Lanes' complaint.

         {¶3} We find this argument unavailing and affirm the trial court's judgment since the case was settled through mediation and the claims of the complaint were voluntarily dismissed by the parties before any issues of fact or law were decided. Moreover, the docket does not support the Lanes' assertions that either Mrs. Griffith or her counsel acted in a dilatory manner or engaged in frivolous conduct in defending against the complaint.

         Substantive and Procedural History

         {¶4} In November of 2017, the Lanes filed a complaint in the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, alleging breach of contract and seeking specific performance of a real estate purchase agreement they entered into with Mrs. Griffith. They alleged that on September 19, 2017, Mrs. Griffith accepted the Lanes' offer to purchase her property, which is located adjacent to theirs. The Lanes further alleged that on October 26, 2017, Mrs. Griffith refused to close the transaction and convey the property. They requested an order requiring Mrs. Griffith to perform under the contract and for a judgment of damages, including the costs of the action and reasonable attorney fees.

         {¶5} On January 2, 2018, the Lanes filed a "Motion for Entry of Default and Default Judgment." Mrs. Griffith sent a handwritten letter to the court approximately two weeks later informing the court that she did not want to sell her property. She explained that her husband had recently passed away and she was taken advantage of by the buyers and the real estate agent.

         {¶6} Mrs. Griffith's counsel filed a notice of appearance and a motion to file an answer instanter on February 6, 2018, which the court granted the following day. The answer generally denied "any and all allegations that could, if true, result in a judgment for the Plaintiffs."

         {¶7} Accordingly, the court issued an order cancelling the default hearing. In mid-March, a mediation was scheduled for June 13, 2018. In the interim, Mrs. Griffith timely responded to the Lanes' first set of discovery requests.

         {¶8} Two days prior to the mediation, the Lanes filed a motion for summary judgment. The case, however, was resolved during the mediation. The real estate transaction closed, and the property was transferred to the Lanes on July 18, 2018. The mediator subsequently filed a report on August 16, 2018, stating that plaintiff's counsel would file an entry regarding the settlement. On August 23, 2018, the trial court gave the Lanes' counsel 30 days to file a final judgment entry or show cause why such an entry was not provided.

         {¶9} On September 21, 2018, the Lanes filed a response, stating that a final judgment entry could not be filed because Mrs. Griffith was refusing to comply with her obligations under the purchase agreement by failing to pay for the pumping of the ...


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