Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula
Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case
No. 2017 CV 0779.
Bryan Carr, Carr, Feneli & Carbone Co., L.P.A., (For
Timonere, Timonere Law Offices, LLC, (For
JANE TRAPP, J.
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.
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.
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.
and Procedural History
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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