Miller v. Miller, 2005 Ohio 5120 (OH 9/23/2005), No. 2004-T-0150.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Ohio
Writing for the CourtDiane V. Grendell
Citation2005 Ohio 5120
Decision Date23 September 2005
Docket NumberNo. 2004-T-0150.
PartiesKenneth Miller on Behalf of Trumbull Industries, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Samuel H. Miller, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

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2005 Ohio 5120
Kenneth Miller on Behalf of Trumbull Industries, Inc., Plaintiff-Appellant,
Samuel H. Miller, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 2004-T-0150.
Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Trumbull County.
September 23, 2005.

Civil Appeal from the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 04 CV 1119.


Edwin Romero and Thomas J. Lipka, Manchester, Bennett, Powers & Ullman, The Commerce Building, Atrium Level Two, 201 East Commerce Street, Youngstown, OH 44503-1641, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Charles L. Richards, Law Office of Charles L. Richards, Suite 300, The First Place, 159 East Market Street, Warren, OH 44481-1122, for Defendants-Appellees.



{¶1} In this accelerated calendar appeal, submitted on the record and briefs of the parties, plaintiff-appellant, Kenneth Miller, on behalf of Trumbull Industries, appeals from the judgment of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas denying his motion for injunctive relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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{¶2} This case is the latest in a series of lawsuits between the ownership families of Trumbull Industries, Inc. Trumbull Industries is a closely-held Ohio corporation engaged in the distribution of wholesale plumbing supplies. The officers and directors of Trumbull Industries are two sets of brothers. Murray Miller is President of Trumbull Industries, a director, and a 25% shareholder of the corporation. Murray's brother, Samuel H. Miller ("Sam H."), is a Vice-President, director, and a 25% shareholder. On the other side of this dispute is Kenneth Miller, Murray's and Sam H.'s cousin, who is Vice-President and Secretary of Trumbull Industries, a director, and a 25% shareholder. His brother, Samuel M. Miller ("Sam M."), is also a director and 25% shareholder in Trumbull Industries. The aforementioned individuals hold their shares either individually or through their individual trusts. There are no other owners, officers, or directors of Trumbull Industries, other than the aforementioned individuals. It is generally agreed among the parties that the two sets of brothers do not communicate with one another with respect to managing the business, have not held board meetings on a regular basis for a number of years, and that the Board has effectively been deadlocked since the mid to late 1990's, when the sole outside director of Trumbull Industries, Richard Mueller, left the Board.

{¶3} Sam M. is not a party to the instant matter, but is involved as a defendant in related litigation pending in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas.1 In that

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case, Murray and Sam H. filed suit against Sam M. and another individual both as individuals and as officers on behalf of Trumbull Industries, alleging that Sam M. breached his fiduciary duty to Trumbull Industries by denying it a business opportunity which Murray and Sam H. alleged rightfully belonged to the corporation. The parties to this action stipulated that Murray and Sam H. have spent approximately $142,000 in corporate funds in pursuit of the PBO litigation.

{¶4} On May 11, 2004, after learning that Murray and Sam H. had used corporate funds to bring the suit against Sam M., Kenneth Miller filed the instant shareholder's derivative action, seeking "injunction and monetary relief," alleging that, Murray and Sam H. breached their fiduciary duty to the corporation by incurring and authorizing payment of legal fees in the PBO litigation "without seeking or obtaining approval" of the other shareholders and directors, in violation of Trumbull Industries' corporate regulations. In his prayer for relief, Kenneth demanded a judgment and accounting for all sums paid pursuant to the PBO litigation, and an order from the court enjoining defendants from paying additional legal fees "unless and until a majority of shareholders approves such payment." On May 28, 2004, Murray and Sam H. filed a motion to dismiss Kenneth's complaint, arguing that injunctive relief is improper, since the request for money damages contained in Kenneth's complaint is an adequate remedy at law.

{¶5} On July 15, 2004, a hearing on Kenneth's request for preliminary and permanent injunction was held, in which Murray, Sam H. and Kenneth testified.2 On

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August 17, 2004, the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Murray and Sam H., finding, in relevant part, that while there was no corporate authorization for the payment of the legal fees, such authorization was impossible, due to the hopelessly deadlocked nature of the board. The court further found that there was no irreparable harm to the corporation or Kenneth as a shareholder and that Kenneth's claim for money damages is an adequate remedy at law, therefore, injunctive relief was not appropriate.

{¶6} Kenneth timely appealed, asserting a single assignment of error:

{¶7} "The trial court entry [sic] erred in failing to grant plaintiff-appellant a preliminary injunction and/or a permanent injunction against defendants'-appellees' actions.

{¶8} In his sole assignment of error, Ken argues that injunctive relief should have been granted, since his request satisfied the four-factor test for granting injunctive relief, and he has no other adequate remedy at law. We disagree.

{¶9} The issuance of an injunction is a matter of judicial discretion and "absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court, an appellate court is not permitted to question the trial court's decision to deny or grant such relief." Control Data Corp. v. Controlling Bd. of Ohio (1983), 16 Ohio App.3d 30, 35 (citations omitted); Garono v. State (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173; Perkins v. Quaker City (1956), 165 Ohio St. 120, 125 (unless there is a plain abuse of discretion, reviewing courts will not disturb judgments to grant or refuse injunctions). An abuse of discretion consists of more than an error of law or judgment. Rather, it implies that the...

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