Finney Law Firm prevails in “Mansion House case” through Ohio Supreme Court

Attorney Casey A. Taylor

Recently, our firm had a probate decision make its way all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court as part of joint effort by Attorneys Isaac T. Heintz of our transactional team and Casey A. Taylor of our litigation team.

While the precise legal issues in that case were somewhat idiosyncratic (and certainly underutilized), the underlying situation in that case was not all that unique. That is, our firm has been approached on more than one occasion by an individual whose spouse has passed away and, to their surprise (or perhaps not), had disinherited them before their passing.

Many times, the surviving spouses are left believing they have no recourse and will be left with pennies on the dollar relative to the decedent’s estate. However, that is not always the case.

A Surviving Spouse’s Right to Purchase Assets from Decedent’s Estate

Under Ohio law, a surviving spouse has the right to purchase certain assets from an estate at the appraised value, including “the mansion house.” See R.C. 2106.16 (providing the right to purchase “the mansion house, including the decedent’s title in the parcel of land on which the mansion house is situated and lots or farm land adjacent to the mansion house and used in conjunction with it as the home of the decedent” at its appraised value, provided that it is not specifically devised/bequeathed to someone else).

The “mansion house” is often not an actual mansion, as the name would suggest but, generally speaking, can be thought of as the decedent’s primary residence. See id. (“. . . as the home of the decedent.”) (emphasis added). Additionally, if there is a farm associated with the mansion house, which is used in connection with the home (and not a commercial farming operation), the farm should also be subject to the surviving spouse’s right to purchase.

The statute, however, is not limited to the “mansion house” but also may apply to household goods and other personal property under certain circumstances. Although it is typically not the focal point of a surviving spouse’s rights, R.C. 2106.16 can provide an opportunity for a surviving spouse to promote a more expeditious resolution of an estate and, if the facts and circumstances are right, benefit monetarily.

As a threshold issue, R.C. 2106.16 only applies to assets that are, “not specifically devised or bequeathed.”  A specific devise or bequeath occurs when a Will specifically references a designated asset transferring to a particular party (e.g., I give to John Doe the real estate located on 123 General Street, Anytown, Ohio).

A residual devise/bequest, by contrast, almost never qualifies as a specific devise/bequest (e.g., I give to John Doe the rest, residue and remainder of my estate).  As long as the asset in question is not subject to a specific bequest, R.C. 2106.16 may be an option as to the asset in question.

R.C. 2106.16 – the “Mansion House Statute” – Applied in Real Life

Not only can the exercise of this right allow the surviving spouse to purchase and, at his or her election, remain in the home that served as the decedent’s residence (and, perhaps, as the surviving spouse’s residence too, though this is not required – keep reading. . . ), but it can also serve to maximize an otherwise disinherited spouse’s share under the decedent’s estate. For instance (and especially where the mansion house appraises for less than the surviving spouse believes it is worth), a practical, yet largely overlooked strategy available to surviving spouses is to purchase the mansion house (or another undervalued asset contemplated under the statute) and immediately sell it to a third-party purchaser for a higher price. R.C. 2106.16 imposes no requirement that the surviving spouse maintain ownership of the mansion house/asset for any set period of time.

Thus, if the subsequent sale generates excess proceeds, those proceeds would belong to the spouse. In this scenario, even a disinherited surviving spouse who would otherwise take very little under the decedent’s estate may be able to pocket a significant amount by capitalizing on the difference between the appraised value and market value/purchase price of a sale to a subsequent buyer, consistent with his or her rights under R.C. 2106.16.

Further, there may be instances where the purchase of one or more assets by the surviving spouse (or the threat of him/her purchasing) could help facilitate a resolution or settlement of the decedent’s estate. For example, if the asset is desired by the executory/adverse party, he or she may seek a prompt resolution if that asset is in jeopardy, or the surviving spouse could otherwise use his or her right to purchase as a bargaining chip of sorts.

These are just a couple of ways that R.C. 2106.16 could be used to the benefit of a surviving spouse in an otherwise less-than-ideal situation in a practical sense. This is an area where our firm excels – we have a well-rounded team, with experience in diverse areas of the law and real estate, who come together to develop innovative solutions for our clients.

Our Case

In our “Mansion House” case, our client was a surviving spouse asserting her right to purchase the home and farm owned by her husband, which served as his primary residence. The executor of the decedent’s estate challenged our client’s right to purchase the home/farm, arguing primarily that she (the surviving spouse) did not live at the home/farm full time at the time of her husband’s (the decedent) death. In essence, the executor wished to impose a residency requirement on the surviving spouse where the statute only contemplates the residency of the decedent. Though more secondary arguments, the executor also asserted that:

  • the property was somehow specifically devised by virtue of the residuary clause in the decedent’s will and, thus, excluded from the purview of R.C. 2106.16 (conveniently, the executor was the beneficiary of the residual and desired the home/farm), and that
  • if the decedent’s home was the “mansion house,” and if our client had a right to purchase it, that right did not extend to the farmlands adjacent to the home because they were a separate parcel.

The trial court rejected all three of the executor’s arguments and found for our client (i.e., that the home/farm at issue was a “mansion house” under that statute and that our client was entitled to purchase it at its appraised value). Specifically, the trial court found that the plain language of the statute does not impose a residency requirement on the surviving spouse – the “mansion house” is the home of the decedent.

Additionally, the residuary clause contained no specific devise of the property at issue. And lastly, the statute (R.C. 2106.16) explicitly contemplates “lots or farm land adjacent to the mansion house” and used in conjunction therewith. On appeal by the executor, the Twelfth District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the finding in our client’s favor. You can read the full appellate decision HERE (link to 12th Dist. Decision).

In a final effort to thwart our client’s purchase of the property, the executor sought discretionary review from the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that the question was a great issue of public importance. The High Court, however, declined to exercise its jurisdiction to hear the case, leaving the lower court decisions for our client undisturbed.


This was a very favorable outcome for our client and our firm, and we take pride in our ability to deliver creative solutions to our clients’ unique, and often difficult, legal questions. If you would like to speak someone regarding estate planning or any other legal questions you may have, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  You may reach Isaac Heintz at 513.943.6654 and Casey Taylor at 513.943.5673.


As discussed in a previous post, courts will only enforce contracts for the sale of real estate if the contract is in writing (and signed by the person against whom you seek enforcement). Click here to read that post.

The legal principle that requires certain contracts to be in writing is the Statute of Frauds. In Ohio, the Statute of Frauds is codified in Chapter 1335 of the Ohio Revised Code; and the Statute of Frauds covers more than just real estate contracts (both sales and leases). For example, R.C. 1335.02 requires loan agreements with financial institutions be in a signed writing to be enforced. However, “the use of a credit card results in the person using the card being bound by the card member agreement.” Citibank, N.A. v. Ebbing, 2013 -Ohio- 4761, ¶ 13, 2013 WL 5783722, at *3 (Ohio App. 12 Dist.,2013)

R.C. 1335.05 extends the Statute of Frauds to a promise to pay the debts of another person; an executor’s promise to pay the debts of the estate from her own funds; an agreement made in consideration of marriage; and for contracts that are not to be performed within one year.

R.C. 1335.11 further extends the requirements of the Statute of Frauds to sales commissions.

These same subjects are covered by Kentucky’s the Statute of Frauds at K.R.S. 371.010.

Despite the formal language of the statute, we see these in everyday life: a parent cosigning on a child’s student loans for instance. An agreement made in consideration of marriage includes prenuptial agreements (but not the agreement to marry itself).

When faced with oral agreements that are not to be performed within one year, courts will often engage in detailed analysis to determine if it is possible that the contract could have been performed within one year. For instance, in Jones v. Pouch, 41 Ohio St. 146, 1884 WL 84 (Ohio 1884), the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that an oral contract to construct a section of road in 1 year and 20 days was enforceable, because it was possible to have completed the work within one year, the additional twenty days were merely a precaution against contingencies. This case is still good law and was cited in the 2015 edition of Williston on Contracts despite being 131 years old.

Additionally with respect to agreements that are not to be performed within one year, Ohio’s courts have determined that the statute of frauds will not bar recovery where one party has fully performed their obligations under the contract but has not been fully paid. In another 19th century case, Towsley v. Moore, 30 Ohio St. 184, 1876 WL 176 (Ohio 1876) the mother of Olive Towsley, an 11 year old girl arranged for her to work in the home of Mr. Moore until she turned 18, in exchange for room and board, and, when she turned 18, Moore was to pay Olive the value of her services. The Court rejected Moore’s argument that the statute of frauds prevented Olive from recovering the value of her services. Ultimately, Moore was ordered to pay Olive $300.00 for her nearly 7 years of service.

Even where a contract fails to satisfy the requirements of the Statute of Frauds and a breach of contract claim cannot be brought, a claim for unjust enrichment or other equitable claims may allow you to obtain a just result.

Whether you are the borrower or the lender, employer or employee, you can avoid these questions by getting your contract in writing and signed by all parties.

If you have a business or residential property in Hamilton County that experiences flooding that includes sewer effluent, you may have a claim for repairs to damage, and retrofitting your property to prevent future flooding.

Master settlement with US EPA

In 2002, the US EPA, the State of Ohio, and others brought suit against Hamilton County and City of Cincinnati alleging that overflows of MSD’s sanitary sewer system violated the Clean Water Act and related Ohio laws and regulations. They challenged the capacity and pollution problems with MSD’s sewer system, including sewage overflows from MSD’s sanitary sewers, overflows from combined storm water and sanitary sewer lines, deficiencies at wastewater treatment plants, and backups of sewage into homeowners’ basements.

On December 3, 2003, a final settlement was reached with the Board of Commissioners of Hamilton County and City of Cincinnati. The case was pending in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Ohio. Under the settlement, Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) agreed to bring its aging sewer system into compliance with the Clean Water Act.

Consent Decree creates Sewer Backup Program 

In June 2004, the Court approved two consent decrees aimed at eliminating all sanitary sewer overflows. The Consent Decree established a comprehensive framework for the County and City to develop and implement a long-term plan for infrastructure improvements to address the capacity and pollution problems with MSD’s sewer system. The Consent Decree also required the County and City to implement programs to prevent basement backups, clean up backups when they occur, and reimburse residents for property damages for sewer backup events. This probram is referred to as the Sewer Back Up Program (“SBU”), formerly known as the Water in Basement Program, whereby aggrieved homeowners who have experienced backups to their Property emanating from MSD sewers can recover their damages.

Claims process

There are multiple steps in the MSD claims process.

  • First, a homeowner who has experienced a backup to their Property must report the same within 24 hours, either at (513) 352-4900 (24 hours/7 days a week) or online here.
  • Second, that homeowner should fully document with photos and videos the backup, as well as all entry points, including sewer drains at the Property.
  • Next, within 2 years of the date of the backup, a homeowner must complete and submit the Sewer Backup Claim Form available here.

MSD will conduct a technical evaluation and upon determination that MSD is responsible, assign the claim to a claims adjuster. Once the claims adjuster has completed its review, the proposed settlement is sent to MSD for legal review and once approved by MSD legal, a letter containing the settlement offer and release is sent to the Property owner, the Claimant. If the Claimant is in agreement with the settlement offer, he/she signs the release and returns it to MSD. If the claimant is not in agreement with the settlement offer, he or she may further discuss the amount with MSD or pursue the Review Process set forth by the Court, as set forth herein.

Review of decision by Federal Magistrate Judge

Claimants who are dissatisfied with MSD’s disposition of a claim under the SBU program may request review of the decision by the Magistrate Judge in Federal Court, whose decision is binding and not subject to any further judicial review. In accordance with the Consent Decree, Federal District Court case #C-1-02-107, the Claimant may file a Request for Review with the Federal Court in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Claimant should file that Request within 90 days with the Clerk’s Office of the Federal Court located in the Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, Room 103, 100 East 5th Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. The Claimant may also call the court-appointed Ombudsman, the Legal Aid Society, at (513) 362-2801 for further information.

In determining the cause of an SBU, MSD must exercise its good faith reasonable engineering judgment and consider the following non-exclusive factors: amount of precipitation, property SBU history, condition of the sewer system in the neighborhood, results of a visual inspection of the neighborhood to look for signs of overland flooding, neighborhood SBU history, capacity of nearby public sewer lines, and topography. United States v. Bd. of Hamilton County Comm’rs, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157434, *17-18 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 6, 2014).

Damages that can be recovered

Damages arising from basement backups for which MSD is responsible are limited to documented real and personal property. Under the Consent Decree, “[d]amages will be paid for losses to real and personal property that can be documented” and “[c]laimants will be asked to submit copies of any documents that they may have that substantiate the existence and/or extent of their damages.” (Doc. 131, Exh. 8 at 2-3). United States v. Bd. of Hamilton County Comm’rs,2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37601, *27 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 20, 2014).

The Claims Process will only reimburse for damages arising from basement backups caused by inadequate capacity in MSD’s Sewer System or that are the result of MSD’s negligent maintenance, destruction, operation or upkeep of the Sewer System. United States v. Bd. of Hamilton County Comm’rs, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37601, *22-23 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 20, 2014). Claimants seeking a review of the denial of an SBU claim bear the burden of proof of showing that the backup of water into their property was due to inadequate capacity in MSD’s sewer system (a sewer discharge) and not overland flooding.

Inadequate capacity versus overland flooding

However, Courts have found that there is nothing in the language of the Consent Decree that limits recovery where the evidence shows damages were concurrently caused by a combination of overland flooding emanating from MSD’s Sewer System and overland flooding not emanating from MSD’s Sewer System. The language of the Consent Decree does not require that SBU be the sole or greater cause of the damages sustained, or that damages should be apportioned where damages are caused by both SBU and overland flooding not emanating from MSD’s Sewer System. Under the terms of the Consent Decree, homeowners “who incur damages as a result of the backup of wastewater into buildings due to inadequate capacity in MSD’s Sewer System (both the combined and the sanitary portions) can recover those damages. . . .” United States v. Bd. of Hamilton Cnty. Comm’rs, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46858, *10-11 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 29, 2016).

The Court has found that language of Consent Decree excluding overland flooding “not emanating from MSD’s Sewer System” necessarily contemplates circumstances where overland flooding in fact “emanates” from MSD’s Sewer System. Thus, where the public sewer discharges from the cover of the manhole and flows over ground and into a building, the terms of the Consent Decree cover any subsequent claim for damages. Accordingly, the Consent Decreedoes not bar claims for overland flooding which emanates from MSD’s Sewer System. United States v. Bd. of Hamilton County Comm’rs, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37601, *23-24 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 20, 2014) The fact that overland flooding may occur and ultimately contribute to the lack of sewer capacity — resulting in a sewer surcharge does not exclude sewer backup as one cause of the damages sustained. The language of the Consent Decree does not require that SBU be the sole or greater cause of the damages sustained, or that damages should be apportioned where they are caused by both SBU and overland flooding not emanating from MSD’s sewer system. United States v. Bd. of Hamilton Cty. Comm’rs, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79177, *19-20 (S.D. Ohio May 23, 2017).


If you have experienced a Sewer Back Up and would like assistance with the claims process or review of your claim in federal court, please contact Julie Gugino at 513-943-5669.

While it may seem obvious to some, many do not realize the very harsh consequences that can result from failing to respond to a lawsuit. If you’ve been sued and don’t really understand what the next steps are, you aren’t alone.

When a party files a civil (i.e., not criminal) lawsuit against another, the case is initiated upon the filing of a “Complaint.” The Complaint sets forth the parties, the factual allegations, the causes of action, and the remedy or relief sought.

Okay, so you’ve been served with the Complaint . . . Now what?

Once the defendant is served with the Complaint (thus, putting the defendant on notice of the lawsuit), he or she is required to respond within a certain number of days (28 days in Ohio; 20 days in Kentucky). The response to the Complaint could be an “Answer” (where the party will admit or deny each of the allegations and set forth any defenses it may have) or, alternatively, a defendant can respond with a variety of motions, such as a motion to dismiss.

If a defendant fails to respond to the Complaint within the time frame allotted, the plaintiff may move for “default judgment” against the defendant. This is, essentially, what it sounds like – the moving party wins by “default.” Under Ohio law, “default judgment is proper against an unresponsive defendant ‘as liability has been admitted or confessed by the omission of statements refuting the plaintiff’s claims.’”  Ohio Valley Radiology Assoc., Inc. v. Ohio Valley Hosp. Ass’n., 28 Ohio St. 3d 118, 121, 502 N.E.2d 599 (1986). In other words, if you do not refute the plaintiff’s allegations, you are deemed to have admitted them. The onus is on the defendant.

If you do not respond to the Complaint and, therefore, admit the allegations, the other side’s claims have, more or less, been proven in most instances. For example, if someone sues you for breach of contract and claims damages of $70,000.00, and you fail to respond to the Complaint (thus, admitting that you breached the contract and owe the sought damages), the Court can enter judgment against you for the full $70,000.00. The plaintiff can then begin to pursue collection efforts against you, including garnishing wages and/or bank accounts, foreclosing on property, etc.

Additionally, default judgments can be very difficult to have overturned. In order to get relief from the judgment, a defaulting defendant must demonstrate that he or she has a meritorious defense to the lawsuit, that one of the provisions of Civ.R. 60(B) applies, and that the motion for relief was filed within a reasonable time after the judgment was entered. GTE Automatic Electric, Inc. v. ARC Industries, Inc., 47 Ohio St. 2d 146, 150-51 (1976). This is not always an easy task.

In the case of Ben. Ohio, Inc. v. Poston, 5th Dist. Fairfield No. 03-CA-07, 2003-Ohio-4577, the court held that defendants were not entitled to relief from judgment where their daughter signed for service of the Complaint and did not inform them. In Fouts v. Weiss-Carson, 77 Ohio App. 3d 563 (11th Dist. 1991), the defendant was not entitled to relief from judgment where she claimed she was distraught from her divorce and seeking psychiatric treatment when her response was due, absent a showing that defendant’s condition rendered her incompetent). And in Universal Bank N.A. v. Thornton, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 72553, 1997 Ohio App. LEXIS 5694, at *7 (Dec. 18, 1997), the court held “[a] party who willfully and deliberately chooses to ignore a complaint and has stated no other reason for failing to appear or answer a complaint has not stated adequate grounds for relief from default judgment.”

The Answer: Answer the Complaint (and Make a Plan), and We Can Help You

 Even if you believe the claims against you are entirely meritless, it is still important to respond to any claims filed against you so that you can refute the plaintiff’s claims and assert your defenses. You may even have a viable counterclaim against plaintiff (which often incentivizes an early settlement and/or dismissal). While no one wants to spend a ton of money defending a lawsuit (especially a meritless one), it is necessary to follow the proper steps and maybe even formulate an “exit strategy.” Otherwise, the result could be devastating. The litigation team at the Finney Law Firm understands that the legal process can be confusing (and, sometimes, even unforgiving) to those who, like most, don’t litigate often. We would be happy to speak with you about your rights and obligations as a party in litigation, as well as strategies to help minimize your exposure.

Our firm prides itself on being full-service. That is, we create value for our clients in matters ranging from routine contract drafting to complex litigation. However, our representation of clients in litigation isn’t just limited to the trial level – we also handle appeals (click here for more on our trips to the Supreme Court of the United Statesand Ohio Supreme Court). After all, if judges always got it right, the rate of overturned decisions would be zero.

Appellate practice is procedurally complex

Appealing a judgment requires adherence to an entirely new set of rules, separate from those involved in lower-court litigation. These rules often involve strict deadlines and harsh penalties for non-compliance. One common though rarely-discussed aspect of the appellate process is the post-judgment bond. Ohio Civ.R. 62 gives courts discretion to impose a bond on a non-prevailing party in litigation pending appeal. That is, if you are a party to litigation and you lose, you may be required to secure a bond in the full amount of the judgment (or more) to prevent the other side from seizing your assets while you pursue an appeal.

One case requiring a post-judgement bond to stay collections pending appeal

Although a rather extreme illustration, one such example of the post-judgment bond scenario is the Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College case. There, Gibson’s Bakery sued Oberlin College alleging that Oberlin officials supported the narrative that the Bakery had a long history of racism and discrimination after a shoplifting incident involving an Oberlin student and, ultimately, suspended their long-standing business relationship. The loss of this business was paralyzing to the Bakery, and a jury returned a verdict in favor of the Bakery for more than $30 million, including compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees. Oberlin sought a stay of execution of the judgment amount under Civ.R. 62 (so as to prevent Gibson’s Bakery from seizing their bank accounts, equipment, etc. in satisfaction of the judgment) while they pursued an appeal. The court ultimately granted Oberlin’s motion, but conditioned the stay on Oberlin obtaining a bond in excess of $36 million, the full amount of the judgment plus three years’ interest.

Why are post-judgment bonds required?

“The purpose of a stay pending appeal is to preserve the status quo.” Monarch Constr. Co. v. Ohio Sch. Facilities Comm’n, Franklin C.P. No. 02CVH04-4222, 2002-Ohio-2957, ¶14. The idea is that, if the losing party pursues an appeal, they at least believe that the court made an error and that they should not be held responsible for the full amount of the judgment or at all. Accordingly, they would be prejudiced if, for instance, the prevailing party was permitted to execute the judgment against them and then the decision was ultimately overturned (i.e., the appellate court, for whatever reason, finds that the prevailing party was not entitled to the judgment in the first place).

But what about the prevailing party, who would otherwise be forced to wait (potentially, several years) to collect on a judgment that will likely be upheld, at which time the losing party may no longer have assets to cover the amount of the judgment? Enter Civ.R. 62(B)”

When an appeal is taken the appellant may obtain a stay of execution of a judgment or any proceedings to enforce a judgment by giving an adequate supersedeas bond. The bond may be given at or after the time of filing the notice of appeal. The stay is effective when the supersedeas bond is approved by the court.


. . . an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution until a stay of execution has been obtained pursuant to the Rules of Appellate Procedure or in another applicable manner, and a supersedeas bond is executed by the appellant to the appellee, with sufficient sureties and in a sum that is not less than, if applicable, the cumulative total for all claims covered by the final order, judgment, or decree and interest[.]

Exceptions to the rule

The requirement of a post-judgment bond (or “supersedeas” bond) should not be taken for granted. Courts have found that, in some cases, no bond is required at all if there is adequate security for the prevailing party. See, e.g., Irvine v. Akron Beacon Journal, 147 Ohio App. 3d 428, 451-52 (9th Dist. 2002) (upholding the trial court’s finding that “the Plaintiffs are adequately secured by the Defendant’s solvency and well-established ties to Akron, Ohio and that, therefore, the Defendants are not required to post a bond at this time.”); Lomas & Nettleton Co. v. Warren, 11th Dist. No. 89-G-1519, 1990 Ohio App. LEXIS 2720 (June 29, 1990) (holding that “the posting of a supersedeas bond is not mandatory to stay an execution in all cases”); Whitlatch & Co. v. Stern, 9th Dist. No. 15345, 1992 Ohio App. LEXIS 4218, at *25 (Aug. 19, 1992) (“[U]nder appropriate circumstances, the trial court may exercise its discretion and stay the execution of judgment without requiring the appellant to post a supersedeas bond.”).

Additionally, the government is never required to post a bond. Civ.R. 62(C) (“When an appeal is taken by this state or political subdivision, or administrative agency of either, or by any officer thereof acting in his representative capacity and the operation or enforcement of the judgment is stayed, no bond, obligation or other security shall be required from the appellant.”).

Finally, no bond may be required where the appeal arises out of an administrative decision wherein no money damages are at issue (for instance, a zoning appeal). Trademark Homes v. Avon Lake Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 92 Ohio App. 3d 214, 634 N.E.2d 685, 1993 Ohio App. LEXIS 6239 (Ohio Ct. App., Lorain County 1993) (finding that a supersedeas bond under R.C. 2505.06 is required only where a judgment was rendered for money damages), dismissed, 69 Ohio St. 3d 1449, (1994).

What if the losing party does not or cannot post the bond?

Unfortunately, indigence is often not an excuse recognized by courts. Instead, “R.C. 2505.11 provides a mechanism for substituting the supersedeas bond requirement in connection with an appeal.”GPI Distribs. v. Northeast Ohio Reg’l Sewer Dist., 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 106806, 2018-Ohio-4871, ¶ 27 (rejecting appellant’s argument that it could not post bond because it was indigent). That is, “[a] conveyance of property may be ordered by a court instead of a supersedeas bond in connection with an appeal” (i.e., in lieu of money). R.C. 2505.11.

If the movant/appellant fails to post a bond, when required, no stay of execution is perfected and the trial court retains jurisdiction, thus, rendering dismissal of the appeal appropriate.See generallyDennisonv. Talmage, 29 Ohio St. 433 (1876) (dismissing appeal for failure to pay bond); Collins v. Millen, 57 Ohio St. 289 (dismissing appeal for failure to pay bond). See alsoHoward v. Howard, 2d Dist., 1989 Ohio App. LEXIS 3643, *5-6 (Sept. 19, 1989), citing State ex rel. Klein v. Chorpening, 6 Ohio St. 3d 3 (1983) (“Until and unless a supersedeas bond is posted the trial court retains jurisdiction over its judgment as well as proceedings in aid of the same.”).

Let us help in your appellate matter

We are proud of our appellate success in Ohio, Kentucky and Federal Courts, including important against-the-odds victories at:

  • the United States Supreme Court (we had lost the issue three times in the trial courts of Southern Ohio and twice in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and yet won 9-0 at the Supreme Court on an important First Amendment issue) and
  • Ohio Supreme Court (we lost at the trial court and then lost 3-0 in the appeals court, but won 7-0 at the Ohio Supreme Court on an open meetings issue).

The above authorities provide just a glimpse of how the appellate process can be tricky.

If you’d like to discuss your rights and responsibilities on appeal, please don’t hesitate to contact Casey Taylor ((513) 943-5673 ) or Brad Gibson ((513) 943-6661).

A cashier’s check is better than an ordinary personal check, right?  You can rely on it and turn around the cash quickly, right?

Well, no.

Not only is a bad or fraudulent cashier’s check no better than a bad personal check, there is raging fraud involving cashier’s checks on the internet: Craigslist, Facebook marketplace, etc.

Read this article on the topic.

The Ohio standard for “marketable title”

The standard for real estate title is, without putting too fine a point on it, pristine.  This is true not only in Ohio, but but in every state.

Indeed, one really could put a fine point on it.  Nearly any title defect can be a “cloud” on title that impairs its marketability.

Some minor title defects are OK

As is addressed here, some title defects can be “papered over” with title insurance; others are made acceptable under the marketable title act or standards and customs that allow title attorneys and title insurance companies to ignore minor defects.  Both of these solutions can allow a transaction to close.

But the standard in title is, essentially, perfection.  A buyer is not going to buy, a lender is not going accept a mortgage to secure a loan, and a title insurance company is not going to insure matters that are a “cloud” to title to real estate.

An unreleased Land Installment Contact “clouds” title

I recently helped a client who had “sold” their home on Land Installment Contract.  After three years of payments, the buyer was to pay the balance of the Land Installment Contract, a “balloon payment,” and then get a deed conveying title to the property.  Unfortunately, the buyer defaulted and moved out of the property at the end of the term.

[Is the buyer liable for monetary damages in such circumstance?  Probably.  But the cost to pursue those claims many times exceeds the recovery.  Many sellers are wise to just pack their bags and move on to the next opportunity.]

The seller was able to quickly re-sell the property to another buyer, but the recorded land installment contract constituted a “cloud” on title, making title unmarketable.  When the closing was set to occur, the title insurance company for the lender and buyer refused to pass on the title.

How do you clear title “clouds”

There are two ways to clear a “cloud” of this type: (a) buyer and seller jointly execute a notarized document in recordable form voluntarily terminating the Land Installment Contract or (b) a signature of a Common Pleas Court Judge in an appropriate proceeding extinguishing the Land Installment Contract and then the passage of an additional 30 days to avoid an appeal of that decision (or the exhaustion of appellate rights all the way through the Ohio Supreme Court).

Other than these two alternate steps, there is no “shortcut” to clear and marketable title to defeat a Land Installment Contract that is of record.

And the judicial proceedings could take 12 to 36 months, or even longer, to clear the title problems.

Many title problems can only be addressed in the same way: Either the party who has a colorable claim must sign a recordable instrument releasing the claim or a Judge, after appropriate due process of judicial proceedings, signs an Order wiping away the title claim.  This can be an extended and expensive undertaking.

How can an owner avoid the fate of a “clouded” title?

How can a seller avoid the fate of an impaired title?

First, buy property only after a title examination and with a proper owner’s policy of title insurance.

Second, once you own property that has clear title, don’t sign and record a Land Installment Contract clouding the title.  (Or, get a significant enough up-front down payment make it worth the while of judicially extinguishing the buyer’s interest at a later date if he defaults.)

Similarly, granting voluntary but poorly-thought-through covenants, easements, mortgages and other instruments can foul one’s real estate title and make the title either unmarketable or less valuable than otherwise might be the case.

Involuntary “clouds”

This blog entry addresses problems that an owner causes by his own signature.  But other title problems can arise from, for example, mechanics liens arising from unpaid claims of a contractor on real property, defects that existed when an owner took title to property, and affidavits that another party places of record unilaterally declaring an interest in your land.  These, too, may require one of the two steps noted above to clear, but they are not as easily avoided as ones created by the owner’s own hand.


The essential message of this blog entry is that title is a delicate thing, and can be “clouded” or impaired easily.  Thus, don’t voluntarily sign documents — even if they might initially seem like a good idea — that will constitute a cloud on title, at least not without careful consideration.  Cautiously think through the impact of documents that you voluntarily elect to place of record.


We’ve seen to over and over again, individual lenders “conned” by a borrower into making a supposedly secured loan, but in fact the same borrower has “pledged” the same collateral to multiple lenders for duplicate loans.  That means, of course, when it comes time to pay the money back, there is not enough cash to go around to the various lenders and someone is left holding the bag (or everyone is left holding the bag).

This blog entry explains the scam, and tells our readers how to carefully avoid it.

The scam

Here’s how the scam works: The borrower has control of an asset.  It might be a piece of real estate or a business.  Using that asset, he is able to convince the lender of his “bona fides.”

The borrower says: “If I had enough cash, I could complete the improvements on this property, and repay you your money with a good rate of interest.”  Or, “if I had enough money, I could  stock the shelves of this business, sell more inventory, and pay you a good return on your loaned funds.”

Wanting to help the fraudster, or, more likely, motivated by the greed of an above-market rate or return, the lender lends money.

But either trusting the borrower or trying to save money on legal fees and other expenses like an appraisal, the individual lender advances the cash in anticipation of great rewards when the property sells or the inventory turns, but the lender fails to properly document and  secure his loan.

Because nothing is recorded in terms of a security interest from the first lender, the borrower then goes to a second, a third and a fourth lender, promising the same high returns, and showing unsecured business assets (real estate, inventory, accounts receivable) as assets to stand behind the obligation.   These subsequent lenders are similarly fooled.

The out-of-town investor

I once had an investor from Chicago.  He was lured in to a scheme whereby his Cincinnati borrower was purchasing single family homes, and supposedly renovating them with the investor’s cash.  For simplicity and to save legal fees, the investor did not get a mortgage against the real estate and did not come to Cincinnati to check on the progress of the improvements.  He simply trusted what the Cincinnati borrower was telling him, and relied upon some phony cell phone photographs of the progress on the improvements.  And he wrote check after check after check to the borrower.

What was really happening was that the local borrower was taking my client’s cash for the purchase and improvement of property, but (a) the borrower was not in fact completing the improvements and (b) he had pledged the proceeds from the same properties to three other lenders.

The result

The result of these scams is entirely predictable: eventually the lenders want to be repaid, usually when the real property sells, the inventory “turns,” or the business is supposed to become profitable.

And each of the multiple lenders wants their cash more or less simultaneously.

Of course, there is no cash to pay these various lenders, or perhaps even one of them.  The lenders are left holding the bag.

Sure, the lenders can try to recover their investment through either litigation or — more likely — bankruptcy court.  But in all likelihood the borrower has no assets and the process will be a big, expensive mess.

A $1.3 billion version of the scam

We were recently reminded of this scam by this article from the Los Angeles Times.  There, a scammer conned “thousands of investors” out of more than $1.3 billion in a more complicated version of the same scam.

One wonders why someone did not ask for proper documentation and a first mortgage position in these supposed real estate investments and why someone did not blow the whistle on this guy earlier.  Of course, folks still are asking the same question about Bernie Madoff

How to avoid being scammed

First, “neither a borrower nor lender be” /1/ is not a bad admonition for individuals with cash to loan.  The lure of high rates of return may not be — likely are not — worth the risk.  Banks are in the business of lending money — and collecting it back.  And they are pretty good at it: Assessing the risk, securing the asset, obtaining guarantors for debt, assuring a proper down payment.  These folks have actuaries who assess the risk of certain kinds of lending and have the experience to avoid pitfalls that amateurs make.

Thus, as a general rule, if a borrower needs to borrow funds, tell him to go to a bank, which can spread the risk among many loans, assess the risks make prudent lending decision, and require appropriate down payments, guarantees, and security.  They also know to check for pre-existing liens and to properly document each loan.  They also don’t tolerate excuses for late payments that private lenders might.  They do this for a living.

But if you feel you must lend privately (or simply elect to do so), here are some pointers:

  • Do your best to prudently assess the risk the best that you are able,
  • Lend only against assets that can secure the repayment of the debt — real estate, jewelry, stocks or a lien on inventory and demand that the borrower post adequate security for the funds borrowed.
  • Think about getting third party guarantees for the funds loaned.
  • Make sure the borrower’s husband or wife are also guaranteeing the debt, as the easiest place to hide assets and income is in the name of the spouse of the borrower.
  • Whether through a real estate title examination or a “UCC lien search” for liens on personal property, ascertain whether there are existing liens that stand before yours.
  • Obtain a first lien position in those assets.  There are different ways under Ohio law to assure that you are in “first position” as to real estate, as to stocks, as to inventory and other personal property and special assets such as cars or jewelry.
  • Purchase a lender’s policy of title insurance for the loan amount.  In fact, make the borrower pay the cost of this insurance.
  • Properly document the loan, the security, and the guarantees.
  • Properly track loan payments and vigorously enforce the note and other lending covenants.

Using these techniques, a private lender can avoid the “multiple lenders” scam, and or at least — among all the others — be properly documented and secured in a first lien position against assets to pay the indebtedness.

Our firm knows each of these methods and can help you implement them properly them.


You have worked hard and invested carefully to accumulate the assets you have.  But others don’t have that same success, that same diligence and that same honesty.  There are millions of fraudsters out there glad to take your cash today on the promise of paying you tomorrow.  And they have neither the intention or the ability to fulfill that promise.

Use a Finney Law Firm transactional attorney — Isaac Heintz (513-943-6654), Eli Kraft-Jacobs (513-797-2853), Rick Turner (513-943-5661), Chris Finney (513-943-6655) or Kevin Hopper (513-943-6650) — to make certain that you are properly secured in for the money you are lending.


/1/ From the web site “LiteraryDevices.Net“:

This is a line spoken by Polonius in Act-I, Scene-III of William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. The character Polonius counsels his son Laertes before he embarks on his visit to Paris. He says, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.”

It means do not lend or borrow money from a friend, because if you do so, you will lose both your friend and your money. If you lend, he will avoid paying back, and if you borrow you will fall out of your savings, as you turn into a spendthrift, and face humiliation.

It”s amazing this same advice applies more than 400 years after this noted author’s death.

Attorney Christopher Finney

In our relentless drive to provide value to clients in commercial litigation, one immeasurably painful exercise is convincing opposing counsel and adverse parties to comply with the civil rules in producing discovery responses in a timely fashion.

In one case our firm has underway at present, we have granted two 30-day extensions of time to respond to written discovery beyond the 30-days the civil rules provide, and beyond that opposing counsel is still 10 more days late.  Opposing counsel — despite repeated promises — has refused to provide a single responsive document or answer.  We thus filed a motion to compel.

His response, in part, contained the following:Yes, he actually told the Court that he feared “the risks associated with”… “miss[ing] a significant portion of his wife’s birthday party,” after already having had more than 100 days to respond to written discovery.

It’s such a joy to argue these motions.  It’s sublimely absurd.

Attorney Casey A. Taylor

We’ve all heard of bankruptcy being used as a shield to protect against creditors’ attempts at debt collection. However, in the practice of law especially, the automatic stay is no longer an issue reserved for those who file bankruptcy, nor does it exist solely within the confines of the bankruptcy courts. Sure, the bankruptcy court generally governs matters involving the “stay” but, particularly in our increasingly adversarial society, these issues tend to bleed over into other legal proceedings as well, such that every litigator (and perhaps every litigant) should be apprised of the ways in which the automatic stay could impact them and their claims.

The bankruptcy petition triggers the automatic stay – imaginary armor that then cloaks the debtor (the person who files bankruptcy), halting all collection efforts by creditors (those seeking to collect money from the debtor).  Uponfiling bankruptcy, a debtor is immediately protected by the automatic stay which prohibits, among other things, “any act to collect, assess, or recover a claim against the debtor that arose before the commencement of the case. . . .” 11 U.S.C. § 362(a)(6). The automatic stay imposes on creditors an affirmative dutyof compliance. Sternberg v. Johnston, 595 F.3d 937, 943 (9th Cir. 2010).

In other words, once you file bankruptcy, your creditors (whether that be the telephone company merely seeking to collect a past-due bill, or someone intending to sue you on a $1 million tort claim) are no longer allowed to take any steps toward recovering that which they think you owe them, in court or otherwise. They cannot call you, they cannot send you a letter threatening action against you if you refuse to pay, they cannot file a lawsuit against you, and they cannot continue to pursue claims that are already pending against you without explicit relief from the bankruptcy court in which your petition is filed. Violating the automatic stay is a very serious offense that often results in an award of damages and attorney’s fees against the violating party.  11 U.S.C. 362(k).

Perhaps you represent a defendant in a contract case, your client filed for bankruptcy (invoking the stay), and the plaintiff’s attorney then serves you with discovery request asking your client to admit that he owes the money sought in the lawsuit. The automatic stay protects your client. Or, maybe you are a passenger who was injured in a car accident, and you are preparing to sue the at-fault driver (a debtor in bankruptcy) for reimbursement of medical expenses. The automatic stay likely prevents you from doing so.

In a practical sense, the affirmative duty of compliance placed on creditors even goes beyond just monitoring their own conduct to ensure that they are not violating the stay – it imposes a duty to police against others, namely courts, violating the stay, as well. This may seem a harsh result, but the Sixth Circuit has explicitly held that creditors cannot sit idly by and allow stay violations occur. See generally Wohleber v. Skurko, 2019 Bankr. LEXIS 653 (6th Cir. March 4, 2019).

In the Wohleber case, the husband-debtor was subjected to a post-petition sentencing hearing arising out of a pre-petition contempt proceeding (i.e., he failed to pay a property settlement previously ordered by a domestic relations court and the hearing was to determine his consequences). At the hearing, the debtor was put in jail until he paid the amount ordered by the domestic relations court (also pre-petition). The husband-debtor later argued that the wife-creditor and her attorney violated the automatic stay by allowing the sentencing to proceed. The bankruptcy court, initially, rejected this argument on the grounds that neither the wife-creditor, nor her attorney took any affirmative action to collect the debt post-petition. However, the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the wife-creditor and her attorney had an affirmative duty to “prevent the use of the sentencing hearing and [subsequent confinement] of the [debtor-husband] to coerce payment of the dischargeable property settlement.” Id., at *44.

In sum, the automatic stay is not a concept reserved for bankruptcy courts and the attorneys who practice primarily within it. Instead, it intersects with nearly every area of the law and, frequently, in litigation.  Because the stakes are so high for stay violations and missteps can be costly, it is important that creditors (or potential creditors, or their counsel) are in-tune with what the stay means and the type of conduct it prohibits. It is likewise important for debtors to know their rights so that they can recognize improper conduct if and when it occurs to their detriment.


For assistance with all of your commercial litigation needs, contact Casey A. Taylor at 513.943.5673 or Bradley M. Gibson at 513.943-6661.