State ex rel. City of Olmsted Falls
v.
Bowman

Not overruled or negatively treated on appealinfoCoverage
Court of Appeals of Ohio EIGHTH APPELLATE DISTRICT COUNTY OF CUYAHOGADec 6, 2018
No. 106615 (Ohio Ct. App. 2018)
No. 1066152018 Ohio 4862

No. 106615 No. 107150

12-06-2018

STATE OF OHIO, EX REL., CITY OF OLMSTED FALLS RELATOR-APPELLEE v. TED BOWMAN, ET AL. RESPONDENTS-APPELLANTS

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS Gary Cook 23880 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 2 Beachwood, OH 44122 James Alexander 2000 Lee Road, Suite 14 Cleveland Heights, OH 44118 ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Timothy N. Toma Katherine B. Kimes Toma & Associates L.P.A., Inc. 33977 Chardon Road, Suite 100 Willoughby Hills, OH 44094 John F. Manley John F. Manley Attorney At Law 249 Sunset Drive Hudson, OH 44236 Walter F. Ernfelt Waldheger Coyne & Associates Co., L.P.A. Gemini Tower One, Suite 550 1991 Crocker Road Westlake, OH 44145 Christopher C. Koehler Frantz Ward L.L.P. 200 Public Square, Suite 3000 Cleveland, OH 44114 Luke F. McConville Nicola Gudbranson & Cooper, L.L.C. 1400 Republic Building 25 West Prospect Avenue Cleveland, OH 44115


JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION JUDGMENT: AFFIRMED Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas
Case No. CV-14-835343 BEFORE: Stewart, J., Kilbane P.J., and McCormack, J.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS

Gary Cook
23880 Commerce Park Drive, Suite 2
Beachwood, OH 44122 James Alexander
2000 Lee Road, Suite 14
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

Timothy N. Toma
Katherine B. Kimes
Toma & Associates L.P.A., Inc.
33977 Chardon Road, Suite 100
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094 John F. Manley
John F. Manley Attorney At Law
249 Sunset Drive
Hudson, OH 44236 Walter F. Ernfelt
Waldheger Coyne & Associates Co., L.P.A.
Gemini Tower One, Suite 550
1991 Crocker Road
Westlake, OH 44145 Christopher C. Koehler
Frantz Ward L.L.P.
200 Public Square, Suite 3000
Cleveland, OH 44114 Luke F. McConville
Nicola Gudbranson & Cooper, L.L.C.
1400 Republic Building
25 West Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115 MELODY J. STEWART, J.:

{¶1} Respondent-appellant Ted Bowman challenges the judgment against him in a nuisance action. This court previously affirmed that judgment. State ex rel. Olmsted Falls v. Bowman, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 104154, 2016-Ohio-5851. However, in this consolidated appeal, Bowman argues that the judgment is void because the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the underlying case.

{¶2} The relator, city Olmsted Falls, initiated the action against Bowman pursuant to R.C. 3767.01 et seq. in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, alleging violations of various statutes and ordinances. The violations were based on Bowman's use of his Columbia Road property in Olmsted Falls as an illegal dumping and storage ground. The city complained that Bowman's use created a potential health and safety threat to the community.

{¶3} As relevant to this appeal, the city alleged in its initial petition that "Ted Bowman owns the property located at 9058 Columbia Road in Olmsted Falls, Ohio." Bowman denied that allegation in his answer. Bowman's property was actually a subdivided portion of the larger property previously identified by that address. The city subsequently amended its petition. Its amended verified petition reflected that "Ted Bowman owns the property located in the 9000 block of Columbia Road and further described as Permanent Parcel # 291-10-007 in Olmsted Falls, Ohio." We note that despite the city's initially listing Bowman's address as "9058 Columbia Road," and Bowman's unequivocal statement that he has never owned the real property located at that address, there is no indication that there was ever any question regarding which property the petition referred to or who owned it. To the contrary, Bowman has affirmatively shown he owns the property at issue in the case: he signed an agreed judgment entry, that although it listed the wrong address, nevertheless also contained a specific multipage itemization of Bowman's offending property, and various dates by which he agreed to remove items from it.

{¶4} On appeal, Bowman argues that the incorrect address deprived the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction over the case. As a result, he claims, the court had no authority to render judgment.

{¶5} Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court's power to hear and decide a case on its merits. Morrison v. Steiner, 32 Ohio St.2d 86, 87, 290 N.E.2d 841 (1972); see also Black's Law Dictionary 983 (10th Ed.2014) (It is "[j]urisdiction over the nature of the case and the type of relief sought; the extent to which a court can rule on the conduct of persons or the status of things."). Any decision by a court lacking subject matter jurisdiction is void ab initio. Bank of Am., N.A. v. Kuchta, 141 Ohio St.3d 75, 2014-Ohio-4275, 21 N.E.3d 1040, ¶ 17.

{¶6} Fundamentally, courts of common pleas are vested with subject matter jurisdiction embracing "all matters at law and in equity that are not denied to it." Saxton v. Seiberling, 48 Ohio St. 554, 558-559, 29 N.E. 179 (1891). The Ohio Constitution specifies that the courts of common pleas "have such original jurisdiction over all justiciable matters * * * as may be provided by law." Article IV, Section 4(B), Ohio Constitution. As relevant to this case, jurisdiction has been "provided by law" in R.C. 3767.04(A), which in relevant part states that nuisance actions "shall be commenced in the court of common pleas of the county in which the nuisance is located." Because Olmsted Falls is located in Cuyahoga County, the city properly filed this action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

{¶7} Bowman argues that the initially imprecise address violated pleading requirements in Civ.R. 8 and 9. He dismisses the city's amended petition that corrected the error and listed his correct address, as "irrelevant," because of the previously mentioned agreed judgment entry that referred to the initial petition. Because the address in the initial petition was wrong, Bowman claims, "any action" taken by the trial court was void.

{¶8} Civ.R. 8(A) provides that a complaint only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the party is entitled to relief," and "a demand for judgment * * *." The city's pleadings complied with this requirement, imprecise address notwithstanding. See Cincinnati v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 95 Ohio St.3d 416, 2002-Ohio-2480, 768 N.E.2d 1136, ¶ 29 ("Ohio law does not ordinarily require a plaintiff to plead operative facts with particularity."); see also Peterson v. Teodosio, 34 Ohio St.2d 161, 175, 297 N.E.2d 113 (1973) ("The spirit of the Civil Rules is the resolution of cases upon the merits, not upon pleading deficiencies.").

{¶9} However, even assuming that the city's pleadings were infirm, the alleged infirmity would not have impacted the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction over the case. It is a basic principle of law that defective pleadings do not affect a court's subject matter jurisdiction. Inc. Consultants v. Todd, 175 Ohio St. 425, 427, 195 N.E.2d 788 (1964). "[Subject matter jurisdiction] is determined as a matter of law and, once conferred, it remains." Pratts v. Hurley, 102 Ohio St.3d 81, 2004-Ohio-1980, 806 N.E.2d 992, ¶ 34. Subject matter jurisdiction is not a mechanism for a party to relitigate settled issues or evade judgment merely because he disagrees with the outcome. The trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over the case irrespective of the initially incorrect address. We overrule Bowman's assignment of error.

{¶10} Judgment affirmed.

It is ordered that appellee recover of appellants costs herein taxed.

The court finds there were reasonable grounds for this appeal.

It is ordered that a special mandate issue out of this court directing the common pleas court to carry this judgment into execution.

A certified copy of this entry shall constitute the mandate pursuant to Rule 27 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. /s/_________
MELODY J. STEWART, JUDGE MARY EILEEN KILBANE, P.J., and
TIM McCORMACK, J., CONCUR