W. Branch Local Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. W. Branch Educ. Ass'n, No. 14 MA 53.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtROBB, J.
Citation35 N.E.3d 551
PartiesWEST BRANCH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. WEST BRANCH EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendant–Appellant.
Decision Date29 June 2015
Docket NumberNo. 14 MA 53.

35 N.E.3d 551

WEST BRANCH LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION, Plaintiff–Appellee
v.
WEST BRANCH EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, et al., Defendant–Appellant.

No. 14 MA 53.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Seventh District, Mahoning County.

June 29, 2015.


35 N.E.3d 552

Helen S. Carroll, Sarah J. Moore, Roetzel & Andress, LPA, Akron, OH, for Plaintiff–Appellee.

Ira J. Mirkin, Stanley J. Okusewsky III, Charles W. Oldfield, Green Haines Sgambati Co., LPA, Youngstown, OH, for Defendant–Appellant.

CAROL ANN ROBB, J., CHERYL L. WAITE, J., and MARY DeGENARO, J.

OPINION

ROBB, J.

{¶ 1} Defendants-appellants West Branch Education Association and Ohio Education Association (collectively referred to as “Association”) appeal the decision of the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court granting plaintiff-appellee West Branch Local School District Board of Education's (“Board”) motion for a permanent injunction. The issue in this case is whether the trial court erred in granting the permanent injunction. Encompassed in that issue is whether the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the Association and the Board provides that the grievance filed by the Association is arbitrable.

{¶ 2} We hold that the trial court erred in granting the permanent injunction. The claim is arbitrable. Therefore, the trial court's decision is hereby reversed and remanded with instructions for the trial court to deny the permanent injunction.

Statement of the Facts and Case

{¶ 3} The Board hired Tracie McFerren (“McFerren”) as a teacher in 2008 and from 2011 to 2013 she was employed under an extended limited contract. That contract was set to expire on June 30, 2013. The Board's only options in terms of McFerren's future employment in 2013 were nonrenewal, or an award of a continuing contract/tenure.

{¶ 4} The Association and the Board entered into a CBA that ran from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2014. This CBA governs McFerren's contract. In April 2013, the Board notified McFerren that it would not renew her limited teaching contract and provided her with a statement of the reasons for the decision. The Board held a hearing on June 10, 2013 concerning the non-renewal. After hearing the evidence the Board announced its final decision and declined to renew McFerren's contract. 6/15/13 Letter.

35 N.E.3d 553

{¶ 5} The Association filed a grievance on July 18, 2013 protesting the Board's decision. The Association alleged violations of the CBA between the Board and the Association. The Superintendent of West Branch timely provided a written response to the Association and denied the grievance. In denying the grievance, the Superintendent informed the Association that the grievance was procedurally and substantively inarbitrable.

{¶ 6} The Association then submitted its request for arbitration to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on August 13, 2013. In response, the Board filed the instant action in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court seeking a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctions. 8/26/13 Complaint. In the complaint the Board asserted that the grievance is not subject to arbitration.

{¶ 7} The trial court granted the temporary restraining order the same day that the complaint was filed. Thereafter, the parties agreed to submit the matter to the court on the briefs in lieu of a hearing and agreed that the court could decide the preliminary and permanent injunctions simultaneously.

{¶ 8} After reviewing the parties' filings, the trial court granted the Board's request for a preliminary and permanent injunction. Thus, the trial court found that the grievance was not arbitrable.

{¶ 9} The Association appeals that decision.

Assignment of Error

“The trial court erred when it granted the School Board's motion for preliminary and permanent injunction.”

{¶ 10} Although this assignment of error references the trial court's decision to grant both the preliminary injunction and the permanent injunction, it is noted that the decision to grant or deny a permanent injunction effectively moots the issue of the right to a preliminary injunction. Alan v. Andrews, 7th Dist. No. 06MA151, 2007-Ohio-2608, 2007 WL 1544717, ¶ 51. Thus, our only concern on appeal is whether the trial court's decision to grant the permanent injunction was correct.

{¶ 11} The parties disagree about our standard of review. Generally, the decision to grant or deny an injunction is a matter within the discretion of the trial court, and a reviewing court will not disturb the judgment of the trial court absent an abuse of discretion. Garono v. State, 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173, 524 N.E.2d 496 (1988). An abuse of discretion connotes more than an error of law or judgment; it entails a decision that is unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable. Blakemore v. Blakemore, 5 Ohio St.3d 217, 219, 450 N.E.2d 1140 (1983).

{¶ 12} Based upon that law, the Board asserts that we review the permanent injunction for an abuse of discretion. The Association disagrees. It acknowledges the above stated law, but contends that since the determination of whether the grievance is arbitrable under the CBA, which is a contract, we review the matter de novo.

{¶ 13} Our sister district in deciding whether or not a permanent injunction should have been granted in a contract case has explained:

While we review the trial court's granting of the permanent injunction pursuant to the above-stated standard, Appellant's argument raises the matter of contract construction. If the contract is clear and unambiguous, its interpretation is a matter of law, and there is no issue of fact to determine.
35 N.E.3d 554
Inland Refuse Transfer Co. v. Browning–Ferris Industries of Ohio, Inc. (1984), 15 Ohio St.3d 321, 322, 15 OBR 448, 474 N.E.2d 271, citing Alexander v. Buckeye Pipe Line Co. (1978), 53 Ohio St.2d 241, 7 O.O.3d 403, 374 N.E.2d 146. However, where the contract language is reasonably susceptible of more than one interpretation, the meaning of the ambiguous language is a question of fact. Ohio Historical Soc. v. Gen. Maint. & Eng. Co. (1989), 65 Ohio App.3d 139, 146, 583 N.E.2d 340.

AultCare Corp. v. Roach, 5th Dist. No. 2008CA00287, 2009-Ohio-6186, 2009 WL 4023210, ¶ 57.

{¶ 14} The specific issue before us is, does the language of the CBA indicate that the grievance filed by the Association is arbitrable? Resolution of this issue is a matter of contract interpretation, which is a matter of law. Hence, we employ a de novo standard of review.

{¶ 15} With that standard in mind, we now must decide whether the trial court erred in granting the permanent injunction. The test for granting a permanent injunction is similar to the test used for granting a preliminary injunction; however, there is one distinct difference. The preliminary injunction test requires the moving party to prove a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. Chapin v. Nameth, 7th Dist. No. 08 MA 18, 2009-Ohio-1025, 2009 WL 582572, ¶ 16 quoting, Procter & Gamble Co. v. Stoneham, 140 Ohio App.3d 260, 267, 747 N.E.2d 268 (1st Dist.2000) (test for preliminary injunction). A permanent injunction test requires a higher standard. It requires the party seeking it to demonstrate a right to relief under the applicable substantive law. Village of Ottawa Hills v. Boice, 6th Dist. No. L–12–1301, 2014-Ohio-1992, 2014 WL 1887670, ¶ 14 ; Procter & Gamble Co. v. Stoneham, 140 Ohio App.3d 260, 267, 747 N.E.2d 268 (1st Dist.2000). Or in other words, the moving party must prove that he has prevailed on the merits. Great Plains Exploration, L.L.C. v. Willoughby, 11th Dist. No. 2006–L–022, 2006-Ohio-7009, 2006 WL 3833867, ¶ 12 ; AultCare, 2009-Ohio-6186, 2009 WL 4023210, at ¶ 56 ; State ex rel Dewine v. Ashworth, 4th Dist. No. 11CA16, 2012-Ohio-5632, 2012 WL 6017944, ¶ 61, Miller v. Miller, 11th Dist. No.App. No. 2004–T–0150, 2005-Ohio-5120, 2005 WL 2372835, ¶ 10–11, citing Ellinos, Inc. v. Austintown Twp. (N.D.Ohio 2002), 203 F.Supp.2d 875, 886 ; Edinburg Restaurant, Inc. v. Edinburg Twp. (N.D.Ohio 2001), 203 F.Supp.2d 865, 873.

{¶ 16} In ruling on the preliminary and permanent injunctions, the trial court did not state that the Board prevailed on the merits. Rather, it stated that the Board “is likely to prevail on the merits.” 4/9/14 J.E. Although the trial court incorrectly stated the test for granting a permanent injunction, the trial court did clearly grant a permanent injunction. Its judgment was a determination that the Board prevailed on the merits.

{¶ 17} The arguments raised in the sole assignment of error concern whether the Board prevailed on the merits. The “merits,” in this instance, do not involve whether the Board complied with the CBA in evaluating the teacher, or whether the teacher is entitled to her job. The merits in this instance are confined to whether the grievance is arbitrable. The United State Supreme Court has explained:

[I]n deciding whether the parties have agreed to submit a particular grievance to arbitration, a court is not to rule on the potential merits of the underlying claims. Whether “arguable” or not,
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8 practice notes
  • State v. City of Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Auth., NOS. C-180509
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • December 27, 2019
    ...Ohio App.3d 260, 267, 747 N.E.2d 268 (1st Dist.2000) ; W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn. , 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 15 (7th Dist.) ("Or in other words, the moving party must prove that he has prevailed on the merits."). The party seeking a permanent in......
  • Keystone Comm. v. Switz. of Ohio Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. 15 MO 0011.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • June 13, 2016
    ...State, 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173, 524 N.E.2d 496 (1988) ; W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn., 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 11 (7th Dist.). The decision to grant or deny an injunction is solely within the trial court's discretion and, therefore, a reviewing cou......
  • Mangano v. 1033 Water St., L.L.C., No. 106861
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • December 27, 2018
    ...however, we employ a de novo standard of review. See W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn., 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 13-14 (7th Dist.) (whether the trial court properly granted the permanent injunction involved matters of contract interpretation and was th......
  • Lamar Advantage GP Co. v. City of Cincinnati, No. A-18-04105 (consolidated with Case No. A-18-04125)
    • United States
    • Court of Common Pleas of Ohio
    • November 9, 2018
    ...test used for granting a preliminary injunction." West Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. West Branch Ed. Ass'n , 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 15 (7th Dist.). However, certain distinctions do exists. Whereas "[t]he preliminary injunction test requires the moving party to prove a su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • State v. City of Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Auth., NOS. C-180509
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • December 27, 2019
    ...Ohio App.3d 260, 267, 747 N.E.2d 268 (1st Dist.2000) ; W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn. , 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 15 (7th Dist.) ("Or in other words, the moving party must prove that he has prevailed on the merits."). The party seeking a permanent in......
  • Keystone Comm. v. Switz. of Ohio Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. 15 MO 0011.
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • June 13, 2016
    ...State, 37 Ohio St.3d 171, 173, 524 N.E.2d 496 (1988) ; W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn., 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 11 (7th Dist.). The decision to grant or deny an injunction is solely within the trial court's discretion and, therefore, a reviewing cou......
  • Mangano v. 1033 Water St., L.L.C., No. 106861
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • December 27, 2018
    ...however, we employ a de novo standard of review. See W. Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. v. W. Branch Edn. Assn., 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 13-14 (7th Dist.) (whether the trial court properly granted the permanent injunction involved matters of contract interpretation and was th......
  • Lamar Advantage GP Co. v. City of Cincinnati, No. A-18-04105 (consolidated with Case No. A-18-04125)
    • United States
    • Court of Common Pleas of Ohio
    • November 9, 2018
    ...test used for granting a preliminary injunction." West Branch Local School Dist. Bd. of Ed. v. West Branch Ed. Ass'n , 2015-Ohio-2753, 35 N.E.3d 551, ¶ 15 (7th Dist.). However, certain distinctions do exists. Whereas "[t]he preliminary injunction test requires the moving party to prove a su......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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