On November 3, 2023, we won a big victory for our client, a humble carpenter who lives in Clifton, at the First District Court of Appeals of Ohio. In the decision, the Appeals Court affirmed a verdict in our client’s favor for the removal of a large tree from his property without his permission.
At trial, our firm not only proved the trespass and actual damages but also proved malice by the Defendant by “clear and convincing evidence,” entitling the client to receive as part of his award reasonable attorneys fees and expenses for taking the case to trial.
A copy of Friday’s appellate court decision is here.
We regularly counsel our clients on the time, expense and sometimes disappointing outcomes in civil litigation. It is a major part of the challenges our firm and our clients face in court. And typically small dollar cases — regardless of how just the cause may be — are just not worth pursuing.
Nonetheless, in 2019 we met with client William Chapel at his property and discussed the removal of his 50+ foot black walnut tree by his neighbor without permission. He came home from work one day, and the tree was gone, it was taken down, along with an old wood screening fence that had been on his property, all without his permission. We believed in the case and in the client, so we accepted the case.
Scorched earth strategy of defendants
It is typical in litigation that opposing counsel does not intend to win on the merits of their case, but rather by running out the clock and running the bill to heights that the amount in dispute will not justify, hoping our firm and our clients will “just go away.” Well, we never “go away.”
Victory at trial court
We here wrote about the $222,836.53 verdict that was rendered in our client’s favor last December before the trial court for the removal of that tree, the majority of that verdict being punitive damages, attorneys fees and out-of-pocket expenses associated with the exhaustive litigation path chosen by the Defendants.
In addition to the $222,836.53 award at the trial court, the Court indicated that attorneys fees and expenses incurred in collections matters and in appellate work would supplement the award, so this week we will be preparing a supplemental fee application, hoping to finalize the significant win for our client, and the delivery of justice to our community.
Thanks to our able and persistent team of Christopher Finney, Julie Gugino, and Jessica Gibson who saw this case through to the end.