From Casetext: Smarter Legal Research

State, ex Rel. Westchester, v. Bacon

Supreme Court of Ohio
Jan 9, 1980
61 Ohio St. 2d 42 (Ohio 1980)

Opinion

No. 79-284

Decided January 9, 1980.

Mandamus — To compel issuance of zoning certificates — Prior decision not res judicata or collateral estoppel, when.

1. In order to grant a writ of mandamus, a court must find that the relator has a clear legal right to the relief prayed for, that the respondent is under a clear legal duty to perform the requested act, and that relator has no plain and adequate remedy at law. ( State, ex rel. Harris, v. Rhodes, 54 Ohio St.2d 41. )

2. Where there has been a change in the facts since a decision was rendered in an action, which either raises a new material issue or which would have been relevant to the resolution of a material issue involved in the earlier action, neither the doctrine of res judicata nor the doctrine of collateral estoppel will bar litigation of that issue in a later action.

APPEAL from the Court of Appeals for Geauga County.

In 1964, Bainbridge Township amended its zoning ordinance to permit the use of Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). The purpose of a PUD is to allow the development of a clustered residential community. Because of the need for flexibility, the township decided that it was necessary to allow such developments to be planned outside the usual rigid zoning requirements in the township's zoning ordinance. In lieu of the rigid ordinance, a PUD had to be planned to provide a large amount of acceptable open space per unit. The amount of space was greater for single family units than it was for townhouses.

Westchester Estates, Inc., together with P.H. English, Inc., proceeded to develop a PUD called Tanglewood, which was to be located around a golf course in Bainbridge Township and consisted of four parcels of property totaling 440 acres. The four parcels were made a part of a need restriction covering the entire subdivision.

The final 43 acres to be developed, known as the Harris property, had been laid out in townhouses with the open spaces required in a PUD plan under the 1964 regulation. Zoning permits were obtained for this parcel in 1972; however, these permits were not used within the required one-year period. Upon re-application in 1974, Westchester's request was denied on the basis of a zoning regulation change made in 1971.

Westchester appealed the decision of the Board of Zoning Appeals to the Court of Common Pleas of Geauga County pursuant to R.C. 2506.01. The court affirmed the decision of the board. On appeal, the Court of Appeals, in Westchester Estates v. Bainbridge Zoning Board of Appeals (April 5, 1976), case No. 654, unreported, reversed the trial court. The court held that R.C. 519.14 (B) required the granting of a variance when unnecessary hardship would result from literal enforcement of the ordinance. Because the court determined that Westchester had relied on the earlier PUD regulation in planning the development, which would return a profit only due to sales of the last units, the court found that denial of the variance had been arbitrary and unreasonable.

Between March 30, 1978, and April 5, 1978, P.H. English, on behalf of P.H. English, Inc., and Westchester Estates, Inc., completed and filed with Robert Bacon, zoning inspector for Bainbridge Township, a number of applications for zoning certificates, seeking certificates for townhouses on the Harris property. Bacon has refused to issue the certificates.

Westchester Estates, Inc., then filed this action in mandamus in the Court of Common Pleas of Geauga County to compel Bacon to issue the zoning certificates, contending that the judgment in the earlier Court of Appeals case, being res judicata, entitled it to the certificates. Since the Court of Appeals' decision, Westchester had altered its plans, dividing the 43 acres into 28 acres of single family housing and 14 acres of townhouses (one acre being for roads). Westchester argued that the fact that the 43 acres had been so divided did not alter the effect of the earlier judgment as it concerned the 14 acres of townhouses.

The Court of Common Pleas ruled that the earlier Court of Appeals' decision is res judicata and, as a consequence, issued the writ. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The cause is now before this court upon allowance of a motion to certify the record.

Messrs. Petersen Pasqualone, Mr. Jerry A. Petersen and Mr. Terry G. Pasqualone, for appellee.

Mr. John F. Norton, prosecuting attorney, and Mr. Richard J. Makowski, for appellant.


In order to grant a writ of mandamus, a court must find that the relator has a clear legal right to the relief prayed for, that the respondent is under a clear legal duty to perform the requested act, and that relator has no plain and adequate remedy at law. State, ex rel. Harris, v. Rhodes (1978), 54 Ohio St.2d 41. Because the doctrine of res judicata is insufficient in the case at bar to place appellant Bacon under a clear legal duty to grant the certificates, we must reverse the Court of Appeals and deny the writ.

Res judicata is the sole basis given for the decisions below. In order for a prior decision to act as a bar there must be identity of parties or their privies and identity of issues. Whitehead v. Genl. Tel. Co. (1969), 20 Ohio St.2d 108. If the prior cause of action involves identical issues, then that prior cause of action is conclusive of the rights, questions and facts in issue as between the parties or their privies. If identical causes of action are involved, the prior action is res judicata. If different causes of action are involved but some issues are identical, the earlier decision can be used to bar litigation of identical issues in the later case under the doctrine of collateral estoppel.

Appellant Bacon, as zoning inspector, claims that he was not a party or privy in the earlier action. In Trautwein v. Sorgenfrei (1979), 58 Ohio St.2d 493, this court, at page 501, held that it "must look behind the nominal parties to the substance of the cause [of action] to determine the real parties in interest." Under R.C. 519.14, the Board of Zoning Appeals is authorized to hear and decide appeals from decisions made by an administrative official in the enforcement of R.C. Chapter 519. In deciding these appeals the board can make any order and use all the powers of the officer from whom the appeal is taken. In Westchester Estates v. Bainbridge, supra, the decision of the zoning inspector was appealed to the board and then to the courts. As a consequence, the board, which was the named party, stood in the zoning inspector's place, and the zoning inspector, despite the fact he was not a named party, must be considered to have been a party or privy to that action. The fact another man was zoning inspector is not relevant. It is the official, not the man, who is the party in the case at bar.

In Trautwein, supra, this court ruled that where the material issue had been disposed of in an earlier action, an alleged change of circumstances did not necessarily prevent the doctrine of res judicata or collateral estoppel from barring a later cause of action. Where, however, there has been a change in the facts in a given action which either raises a new material issue, or which would have been relevant to the resolution of a material issue involved in the earlier action, neither the doctrine of res judicata nor the doctrine of collateral estoppel will bar litigation of that issue in the later action.

In the case at bar there has been a change in the facts since the Court of Appeals rendered its decision. Instead of a 43 acre tract devoted to 312 townhouses, appellee has changed the plan to 14 acres of townhouses and 28 acres of single family residences. In a mandamus action a clear legal duty to perform must be shown. Appellee was under a burden to demonstrate that the change in plan was not a relevant issue in deciding whether certificates for the townhouses are required to be issued by the zoning inspector. We can find no evidence in the record to support the issuance of the writ herein. On the contrary, in Westchester Estates v. Bainbridge, supra, the Court of Appeals found testimony by Malcolm Rockwood, a representative of Parkview Savings Loan, to be especially significant. He testified that the last step of a development is in the developer's plans from the outset. If it had been established that the last step was not planned at the outset, then the Court of Appeals might not have determined that an unnecessary hardship would occur. This change in facts is relevant to a determination of whether certificates for the townhouses should issue. As a consequence, we must hold that neither the doctrine of res judicata nor the doctrine of collateral estoppel is sufficient to place appellant under a clear legal duty to issue the certificates.

In addition to finding that there is no clear legal duty, we have grave reservations about granting a writ of mandamus no res judicata grounds when, if there was truly an identity of issues (which there is not), a finding of contempt would be available in the court issuing the original order. Although we do not render our decision on this basis, this appears to be an adequate remedy at law.

In any further litigation there may well be many issues which appellant is collaterally estopped from presenting. Any relevant issue which was or could have been litigated in the earlier case must be ruled to have been decided against appellant. Only issues arising due to the change of facts can be effectively raised by appellant.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed.

Judgment reversed.

HERBERT, W. BROWN, P. BROWN, SWEENEY, LOCHER and HOLMES, JJ., concur.


Summaries of

State, ex Rel. Westchester, v. Bacon

Supreme Court of Ohio
Jan 9, 1980
61 Ohio St. 2d 42 (Ohio 1980)
Case details for

State, ex Rel. Westchester, v. Bacon

Case Details

Full title:THE STATE, EX REL. WESTCHESTER ESTATES, INC., APPELLEE, v. BACON, APPELLANT

Court:Supreme Court of Ohio

Date published: Jan 9, 1980

Citations

61 Ohio St. 2d 42 (Ohio 1980)
399 N.E.2d 81

Citing Cases

Jacobs v. Teledyne, Inc.

* * *" (Citation omitted.) State, ex rel. Westchester Estates, Inc., v. Bacon (1980), 61 Ohio St.2d 42, 44,…

Embury v. Votruba

Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment. Appellant filed a brief in opposition, arguing that this case…