Ohio Court of Appeals Affirms Order Granting Relief from Judgment Due to Typographical Error as to Date of Accident

Legal News GavelMany people labor under the falsehood that, if liability is clear in an Ohio automobile accident case, it will be easy to reach a fair settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. It is not unusual for an insurance company to go to great lengths to avoid paying a claim – even when liability is clear.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed to the Court of Appeals of Ohio for the Eighth Appellate District, the plaintiff was a woman who sought compensation for damages arising from an automobile accident. In her small claims court complaint, she stated that the accident happened in 2014 but involved her 2015 model year vehicle. The defendant driver moved for judgment on the pleadings, claiming that the two-year statute of limitations contained in Ohio Revised Code § 2305.10 precluded the plaintiff’s claim. The trial court judge agreed and granted the defendant’s motion.

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a motion for relief from the judgment on the pleadings in favor of the defendant, asserting that she had inadvertently included the wrong date on her complaint. The defendant objected to the plaintiff’s motion for relief, but the trial court allowed the plaintiff to amend her complaint to allege that the accident occurred in 2015, not 2014 (thus saving her claim from dismissal under the statute of limitations). The defendant appealed.

Decision of the Court

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court had abused its discretion when it granted relief to the plaintiff and allowed her to amend her complaint. As grounds, the defendant argued that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate, through admissible evidence tested through the crucible of a formal evidentiary hearing, the actual date upon which the accident in question occurred.

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling, noting that the plaintiff had attached a copy of the police report along with her motion for relief from judgment and that she was not required to authenticate the report or otherwise seek admission of it under the applicable evidentiary rules for small claims court. In so holding, the court noted that, under Ohio law, a small claims court may consider evidentiary attachments even if they do not formally comply with the Ohio Rules of Evidence. The court also noted that the defendant did not contest the legitimacy of the police report.

The court also rejected the defendant’s contention that the plaintiff should have appealed the trial court’s entry of judgment on the pleadings rather than rely on Ohio Rule of Civil Procedure 60(B) pertaining to relief from judgment, noting that a typographical error of the sort at issue here would have been outside the appellate record at the time of the first judgment in the plaintiff’s favor.

Schedule an Appointment with a Cleveland Car Accident Attorney

This case provides ample support for the proposition that a negligent driver (or more accurately, a negligent driver’s insurance company) will go to considerable efforts (here, a delay of more than two years) to avoid paying what appears to be a valid claim. If you have been given the run-around following a Cleveland car accident, Rubin Guttman & Associates, L.P.A., can help. Call us at 216-696-4006 to schedule an appointment.

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