Ohio Commercial Litigation: The high cost of losing — When post-judgment bonds are required pending resolution of an appeal

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.

Furthermore,

. . . 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).

Attorney | ‭513-943-5673 | casey@finneylawfirm.com | + posts

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