Corwin v. Kimble, 22CA00002

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtWise, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 3395
PartiesMARK CORWIN, Plaintiff-Appellee v. HOLLY KIMBLE, et al., Defendants-Appellants
Docket Number22CA00002
Decision Date26 September 2022

2022-Ohio-3395

MARK CORWIN, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.

HOLLY KIMBLE, et al., Defendants-Appellants

No. 22CA00002

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Licking

September 26, 2022


CHARACTER OF PROCEEDING: Civil Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 20CV00603

APPEARANCES:

For Plaintiff-Appellee

ELIZABETH E. OSORIO

BRIAN G. JONES

THE LAW OFFICE of BRIAN JONES, LLC

For Defendants-Appellants

RANDALL E. WORTH

Hon. W. Scott Gwin, P.J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia A. Delaney, J., Judges:

OPINION

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Wise, J.

{¶1} Defendants-Appellants Holly Kimble and Jeremy Kimble appeal the December 7, 2021, decision of the Licking County Common Pleas Court granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff-Appellee Mark Corwin.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE AND FACTS

{¶2} The relevant facts and procedural history as set forth in the record are as follows:

{¶3} On September 24, 2014, Holly Kimble and Jeremy Kimble entered into a rental agreement with Mark Corwin to rent out Corwin's property located at 126 South Highview Boulevard, Pataskala, Ohio. Pursuant to the rental agreement, the Kimbles agreed to pay Corwin a security deposit of $1,350 and monthly payments of $1,350 until the total amount of $16,200 was paid in full for a 12-month lease. Monthly payments began on November 1, 2014, and the agreement automatically renewed on a month-to-month basis upon the completion of the 12-month obligation.

{¶4} The Kimbles failed to pay the rent for the months of February 2019, March 2019, and April 2019. The Kimbles allege that Corwin agreed to forego rent in exchange for the Kimbles' cooperation in moving out of the property.

{¶5} In early May 2020, the Kimbles vacated the property. Corwin alleges that he discovered substantial damage to the property after inspection.

{¶6} On June 19, 2020, Corwin filed a Complaint in the Licking County Court of Common Pleas against the Kimbles alleging that the Kimbles breached the rental agreement when they failed to pay rent and caused substantial damage to the property.

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Corwin requested damages in the amount of $19,510.16 plus interest and reasonable attorneys' fees.

{¶7} On July 27, 2020, the Kimbles filed their Answer denying that they owe unpaid rent or caused the alleged damage to the property. The Kimbles also brought a counterclaim against Corwin alleging a violation of R.C. §5321.16, which requires a landlord to itemize and identify any deduction from a security deposit in a written notice delivered to the tenant within thirty days after termination of the rental agreement. Corwin denies this allegation.

{¶8} On September 22, 2020, the trial court held a scheduling conference with counsel for the parties present. Pursuant to that conference, the trial court issued a scheduling order which set the deadline for completion of discovery as November 23, 2020.

{¶9} On October 22, 2020, Corwin filed a Notice of Service of Discovery Requests. As part of the discovery requests, Corwin included Requests for Admissions stating:

{¶10} REQUEST NO. 1: Admit that Defendants Holly Kimble and Jeremy Kimble signed a Rental Agreement for tenancy of 126 South Highview Boulevard, Pataskala, Ohio 43062.

{¶11} REQUEST NO. 2: Admit that Plaintiff Mark Corwin is due approximately $3,900 in unpaid rent, late fees and interest as a result of the Rental Agreement for 126 South Highview Boulevard, Pataskala, Ohio 43062.

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{¶12} REQUEST NO. 3: Admit that Plaintiff Mark Corwin is due approximately $15,610.16 in damage to the property located at 126 South Highview Boulevard, Pataskala, Ohio 43062.

{¶13} The requests for admissions designated that responses were due twenty-eight days after service of the requests, which would have been November 19, 2020.

{¶14} On November 30, 2020, Appellee Corwin filed a motion to amend the scheduling order. Appellee's counsel stated that on November 17, 2020, he was notified that Appellants' attorney was quarantining away from the office due to exposure to COVID-19. At that time, Appellee's counsel was advised that responses to discovery requests would not be possible until after the Thanksgiving holiday due to the COVID-19 exposure. Appellee requested that the dates in the scheduling order be extended ninety days to accommodate Appellants and account for the Covid-19 pandemic.

{¶15} By Order filed January 11, 2021, the trial court granted Appellee's motion and extended the scheduling order dates. The deadline for completion of discovery was extended to February 22, 2021.

{¶16} On March 15, 2021, twenty-one days after the discovery deadline had passed, Appellants filed a motion for continuance requesting that all dates be postponed an additional three to four months. Appellants stated in their motion that Holly Kimble was suffering from medical conditions and complications. The trial court granted the motion and extended the dates an additional three months. The deadline for completion of discovery was re-set for June 22, 2021.

{¶17} On August 16, 2021, approximately eight weeks after the rescheduled discovery deadline, Appellants filed another motion for continuance. Appellants asserted

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that Holly's medical conditions and complications and Jeremy's duties in the army prevented them from meeting any of the scheduled dates. This time Appellants requested the scheduling order dates be postponed an additional six (6) months. The trial court did not rule on this motion.

{¶18} On September 1, 2021, a final pretrial conference was held. During the conference Appellee was granted leave to file a motion for summary judgment.

{¶19} On September 7, 2021, Appellee filed his motion for summary judgment.

{¶20} At the time Appellee filed his motion for summary judgment, Appellants had still not responded to the requests for admissions. Because Appellants failed to respond to the requests for admissions, Appellee argues in his motion for summary judgment that the admissions must be deemed admitted. Appellee then goes on to rely on these admissions and other evidence, including the rental agreement, text messages between Appellee and Holly Kimble, and photographs of the rental property, to argue that he is entitled to summary judgment. He also relies on text messages between himself and the Kimbles' new landlord and a letter he sent to the Kimbles to argue that he is entitled to summary judgment on Appellants' counterclaim.

{¶21} Appellee also argued that Appellants were liable for Appellee's attorney fees pursuant to Civ.R. 11.

{¶22} Two days after Appellee filed his motion for summary judgment, Appellants delivered by electronic mail their responses to the discovery requests to Appellee's counsel.

{¶23} On October 12, 2021, Appellants filed a memorandum contra to Appellee's motion for summary judgment. Appellants reiterated that they were unable to reply to

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discovery requests because of Holly's medical condition and Jeremy's duties with the Ohio Army National Guard rendering him unavailable for unspecified, extended periods of time. Appellants further argued that their specific denials to Appellee's damages allegations create a genuine issue of material fact.

{¶24} On November 2, 2021, Appellee filed a reply.

{¶25} By Judgment Entry filed December 7, 2021, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee. In its Judgment Entry, the trial court found that Appellee's requests for admissions were admitted when Appellants failed to timely respond to Appellee's requests, and that Appellants were not permitted to withdraw or amend their admissions.

{¶26} Appellants now appeal, raising the following assignments of error for review:

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

{¶27} "I. THE TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AND ERRED BY FINDING THAT APPELLEE'S REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION WERE ADMITTED WHEN APPELLANTS "FAILED TO TIMELY RESPOND TO PLAINTIFF'S REQUESTS.

{¶28} "II. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FINDING AS A MATTER OF LAW THAT NO GENUINE ISSUE OF MATERIAL FACT EXISTS AND THAT APPELLANTS BREACHED THE LEASE BY FAILING TO PAY RENT AND CAUSING DAMAGES TO THE PROPERTY.

{¶29} "III. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED BY FINDING THAT THE APPELLEES [sic] ADMITTED THAT APPELLANT [sic] IS DUE APPROXIMATELY $3,900.00 IN RENT, LATE FEES AND INTEREST AND $15,610.16 IN DAMAGES TO THE PROPERTY."

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I.

{¶30} In their first assignment of error, Appellants argue that the trial court erred in finding Appellee's requests for admissions were deemed admitted. We disagree.

{¶31} Requests for Admissions are governed by Civil Rule 36. As it pertains to unanswered admissions, Civ.R. 36(A) states, in pertinent part:

A party may serve upon any other party a written
...

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