Weiler v. DLR Grp., 112091

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Citation2023 Ohio 1221
Docket Number112091
PartiesSHAWN WEILER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. DLR GROUP, A NEBRASKA CORP., ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date13 April 2023



SHAWN WEILER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

DLR GROUP, A NEBRASKA CORP., ET AL., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 112091

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

April 13, 2023

Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-22-964279

Shawn Weiler, pro se.

A. Steven Dever Co., L.PA., and A Steven Dever, for appellees.



{¶ 1} This cause came to be heard upon the accelerated calendar pursuant to App.R. 11.1 and LocApp.R 11.1. Shawn Weiler appeals the dismissal of his action


based on the failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment dismissing the action is affirmed.

{¶ 2} Weiler filed a complaint advancing two claims for tortious interference with a business relationship: DLR Group, Inc., headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, interfered with Weiler's employment with Osborn Engineering Company; and DLR Group also interfered with his attempts to thereafter secure a new job. As is relevant to the discussion of Weiler's allegations, there are five elements to a tortious interference claim: "(1) [the existence of] a business relationship or contract; (2) the defendant's knowledge of the relationship or contract; (3) the defendant's intentional or improper action taken to prevent a contract formation, procure a contractual breach, or terminate a business relationship; (4) a lack of privilege; and (5) resulting damages." Woods v. Sharkin, 2022-Ohio-1949, 192 N.E.3d 1174, ¶ 9o (8th Dist.). Any claim for tortious interference requires allegations of an improper act or conduct. Id., citing Syed v. Poulos, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga Nos. 103137 and 103499, 2016-Ohio-3168, ¶ 17, and Baseball at Trotwood, L.L.C. v. Dayton Professional Baseball Club, S.D.Ohio No. C-3-98-260, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27460 (Sept. 2, 2003). In order to present a cognizable claim for relief, a plaintiff must include allegations of fact supporting each element of the tort claim.

{¶ 3} According to Weiler's allegations, Weiler worked for Westlake Reed Leskosky ("WRL") in 2016, when it was acquired by DLR Group. It is unclear whether WRL is a subsidiary of DLR Group or was subsumed into DLR Group as


part of the referenced acquisition. DLR Group outsourced services to Osborn on one occasion during the relevant time frame. At one point, Weiler remembered a conversation in which his manager at DLR Group stated that "upsetting an architect would be [a] 'very career limiting decision.'" Weiler's manager later approached Weiler, inquiring about prospective candidates who had submitted résumés. Weiler told his manager he did not have any information about those candidates. DLR Group terminated Weiler's employment in April 2017.

{¶ 4} Approximately a month later, Osborn hired Weiler.[1] Over a year after being hired at Osborn, Weiler sent an email addressed to "many employees" at WRL. He attached a copy of the email to his complaint, the copy of which was reproduced over two print pages, redacting all but two partial sentences: "Hello WRL employees, [. . .] [t]ime passed and I started a new job at The Osborn Engineering Company. In a last ditch[....]"[2] Weiler did not explain the reason for, or the contents of, the email. In response to the email, an architect employed by DLR Group contacted an individual at Osborn expressing anger at its contents and


"threatening economic consequences." Weiler was informed of the conversation, and Osborn terminated Weiler's employment "for cause." A copy of the termination letter was also attached to the complaint. Other than the timing of the events, there are no allegations tying Weiler's termination for cause to the threat of "economic consequences" referenced in the complaint.[3]

{¶ 5} After losing his job with Osborn in June 2018, Weiler listed DLR Group and WRL as previous employers on his résumé. He was able to secure a new position four months after leaving Osborn. Although gainfully employed, Weiler continued looking for other opportunities. In March 2020, Weiler was offered a position with an unidentified company. A month after rejecting the other offer, he lost his job.

{¶ 6} Weiler started a new position in October 2020, but was terminated the following December. Weiler continued his job search using pseudonyms for "some of his prior employers." It is unclear whether that included DLR Group or WRL. The allegations do not provide that context. It is Weiler's understanding, based on a conversation he had with a "close relative" who was a "co-owner in a business in the fall of 2020," that potential employers contact a job applicant's previous employer during an application process. After securing a telephone interview with an unidentified prospective employer, Weiler provided the


interviewer with the actual names of those prior employers whose identity was previously hidden. It is unclear which of his prior employers' names were then revealed. Weiler was not offered that position.

{¶ 7} Based on those allegations in the complaint, Weiler claimed that DLR Group, ostensibly through its employees, tortiously interfered with Weiler's employment at Osborn and thereafter interfered with all of Weiler's prospective employment opportunities.

{¶ 8} DLR Group timely answered the allegations with general denials. After DLR Group filed its answer, 28 days later as a matter of fact, Weiler filed an amended complaint adding two additional parties to the action: Griff Davenport, a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Paul Westlake, a resident of Cleveland, Ohio. Davenport is alleged to be the CEO of DLR Group and Westlake the managing principal of WRL.

{¶ 9} The amended complaint also provided insight into the redacted email referenced earlier. According to the amended complaint, the email "related public - with regards to the company - actions of Davenport which might have indicated criminal behavior" and further accused Westlake of unspecified "criminal behavior." Three days after Weiler sent the email, Westlake, the architect at DLR Group generically referenced in the complaint, was alleged to have threatened Osborn with unspecified "consequences," the foundation of the first tortious interference claim. Davenport, also as an employee of DLR Group, is alleged to have damaged Weiler's reputation, which impeded Weiler's job search, the foundation of the second


tortious interference claim. Importantly, the new pleading did not impact the allegations against DLR Group but merely clarified the parties acting on behalf of DLR Group.

{¶ 10} On August 26, 2022, Weiler filed a motion for default judgment against DLR Group based on its failure to file an answer to the amended complaint within 14 days, as required under Civ.R. 15(A).[4] DLR Group filed a brief in opposition, seeking to strike the amended complaint or to permit the belated filing of a responsive pleading. The same day, all three defendants jointly filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asking for the case to be dismissed for the failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted under Civ.R. 12(B)(6).[5]

{¶ 11} After granting Weiler leave to file an amended complaint, the trial court granted the motion to dismiss, which was unopposed, concluding that the amended complaint was "comprised of legal conclusions and is unsupported by any factual allegations sufficient to raise a right to relief," citing Tuleta v. Med. Mut. of Ohio, 2014-Ohio-396, 6 N.E.3d 106, ¶ 56 (8th Dist.). Weiler timely appealed, advancing four assignments of error.


{¶ 12} In the first assignment of error, Weiler claims the trial court erred by granting him leave to amend his complaint because leave was not required under Civ.R. 15(A). Weiler is correct to a certain extent, but that does not entitle him to any relief.

{¶ 13} There are three procedural mechanisms available to file an amended complaint once an answer is filed. See Civ.R. 15(A). A "party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course * * * if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required within twenty-eight days after service of a responsive pleading * * *." (Emphasis added.) Civ.R. 15(A); see also Staff Notes for July 1, 2013 amendment ("Rule 15(A) is amended to allow amendment without leave of court of a complaint, or other pleading requiring a responsive pleading, for a period of 28 days after the service of a responsive pleading or motion"); Hunter v. Shield, 10th Dist. Franklin No. 18AP-244, 2019-Ohio-1422, ¶ 13. Outside of that 28-day window, the plaintiff must either seek written consent from the opposing party or request leave of court to amend the pleading. Hunter at ¶ 13-14. An amended complaint, once properly filed, supersedes the preceding ones. Fried v. Friends of Breakthrough Schools, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 108766, 2020-Ohio-4215, ¶ 12, citing Morris v. Morris, 189 Ohio App.3d 608, 2010-Ohio-4750, 939 N.E.2d 928, ¶ 32 (10th Dist.) (applying the proposition of law that an amended pleading supersedes the original pleading). In this case, the amended complaint was filed within 28 days of DLR Group's answer being served.


{¶ 14} Thus, Weiler has a point;...

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