IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS
FAIRFIELD COUNTY, OHIO
Plaintiff,v.Board of Trustees of the Fairfield County District Library,
Case No. 09 CV 657
JUDGE CHRIS A. MARTIN
This matter came before the court upon  Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment,  Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment asserting that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and  Plaintiffs Motion to Strike Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Both parties filed their respective Memoranda Contra1 and Plaintiff filed a Reply.
On May 13, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Permanent Injunction against the Board of Trustees of the Fairfield County District Library asking that this court:
[A] Declare that the Board does not have the statutory authority under the law to make regulations requiring that patrons wear shoes in the Library;
[B] Declare that the footwear rule infringes upon Mr. Neinast’s personal liberty, is arbitrary and capricious, and does not bear a real and substantial relation to the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the public;
[C] Issue a permanent injunction preventing the Board of Trustees, the Director, or any other Library employee from enforcing any rule or regulation specifying that footwear must be worn in the Fairfield County District Library; and
[D] Award Plaintiff any other legal and equitable relief to which he is entitled.
Upon a motion for summary judgment, a court must adhere to Civ.R. 56(C). Civ.R. 56(C) sets forth the following:
“Summary Judgment shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, written admissions, affidavits, transcripts of evidence in the pending case, and written stipulations of fact, if any, timely filed in the action, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
In order to properly grant a summary judgment motion pursuant to Civ.R. 56(C), a trial court must review the pleadings, deposition testimony, and other evidentiary materials and determine that:
“(1) No genuine issue as to any material fact remains to be litigated; (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and (3) it appears from the evidence that reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion, and viewing the evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, that conclusion is adverse to that party.”
Temple v. Wean United, Inc. (1977), 50 Ohio St.3d 317, 327.
Furthermore, the party seeking summary judgment bears the responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of genuine issues of material fact and upon which the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Dresher v. Burt (1996), 75 Ohio St.3d 280. Pursuant to the above rule, a trial court may not enter a summary judgment if it appears a material fact is genuinely disputed. The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the trial court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The moving party may not make a conclusory assertion that the non-moving party has no evidence to prove its case. The moving party must specifically point to some evidence which demonstrates the non-moving party cannot support its claim.
Consequently, once the moving party satisfies its Civ.R. 56 burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate, by affidavit or by producing evidence of the type listed in Civ.R. 56(C) that a genuine issue of material fact remains for trial. Vahila v. Hall, 77 Ohio St.3d 421, 429, 1997-Ohio-259, citing Dresher v. Burt, 75 Ohio St.3d 280, 1996-Ohio-107. See, also, Schwenke v. Wayne-Dalton Corp. (Mar 27, 2008), Holmes App. No. 07-CA-003, 2008-Ohio-1412; Rickels v. Captain Woody’s Pub & Grub (Jul. 7, 2006), Licking App. No. 05CA99, 2006-Ohio-3542; Griffiths v. Rose Ctr. (Mar. 29, 2006), Stark App. No. 2005CA00256, 2006-Ohio-1573; Woods v. Wright (Aug. 24, 2004), Tuscarawas App. No. 2003AP1 10086, 2004-Ohio-4547.
The court first turns to Plaintiffs Motion to Strike Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration, Plaintiffs Motion to Strike is DENIED.
The court will now consider Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. In his Memorandum Contra to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff contends that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment should be denied because it submitted no evidence in support of its claim of collateral estoppel. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the court decisions from other junsdictions attached to Defendant’s motion were not authenticated and, thus, should not be considered by this court.
In Insurance Outlet Agency, Inc. v. American Medical Sec., Inc. Aug. 12, 2002), Licking App. No. 01 CA 118, 2002-Ohio-4268, addressed a similar set of circumstances, where the movant attached unauthenticated court documents, stating that “[t]echnical noncompliance with Civ.R. 56 authentication procedures is not prejudicial if the authenticity of the supporting documents is not called into question. See, e.g., Knowlton v. Knowlton Co. (1983), 10 Ohio App.3d 82, 460 N.E.2d 632; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers v. Smith (1992), 76 Ohio App.3d 652, 602 N.E.2d 782; In re Foreclosure of Liens (Feb. 9, 2000), Harrison App. No. 96-489-CA. Although [the appellant] raised this issue in its summary judgment memoranda, we are unpersuaded that anything in the record would indicate that the aforecited documents are unreliable copies of the originals. See, also, State v. Swank (Dec. 21, 2001), Lake App.No. 98-6-049.” Here, this court finds that there is nothing before it to indicate that the documents attached to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment are unreliable copies of the originals. The court will, therefore, proceed to consider Defendant’s assertion that the claims raised by Plaintiff in his Complaint are barred by collateral estoppel.
To successfully assert collateral estoppel, a party must plead and prove the following elements: (1) the party against whom estoppel is sought was a party or in privity with a party to the prior action, (2) there was a final judgment on the merits in the previous case after a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, (3) the issue was admitted or actually tried and decided, and necessary to the final judgment in the prior action, and (4) the issue is identical to the issue involved in the prior suit. LaBante v. LaBonte (1988), 61 Ohio App.3d 209, 216. Rhinebolt v. Rhinebolt (Oct. 20, 2009), Delaware App. No. O9CAFO3-0032, 2009-Ohio-5646. Where the identical issues raised by a plaintiff's state court complaint have been previously litigated in federal court, the doctrine of collateral estoppel precludes litigation of those same issues. Monahan v. Eagle Picher Industries, Inc. (1984), 21 Ohio App.3d 179.
The Ohio Supreme Court set forth a three-part test for applying issue preclusion, also known as collateral estoppel, in Thompson v. Wing (1994), 70 Ohio St.3d 176, 183, 637 N.E.2d 917:
Collateral estoppel applies when the fact or issue (1) was actually and directly litigated in the prior action, (2) was passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, and (3) when the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party in privity with a party to the prior action.”
The essential test in determining whether the doctrine of collateral estoppel is to be applied is whether the party against whom the prior judgment is being asserted had full representation and a “full and fair” opportunity to litigate that issue in the first action. See, Cashelmara Villas Ltd. Partnership v. DiBenedetto (1993), 87 Ohio App.3d 809. See, also, In re Estate of Perez (Aug. 31, 2009), Stark App. No. 2008 CA 00081, 2009-Ohio-4531.
Issue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, “‘precludes the relitigation, in a second action, of an issue that had been actually and necessarily litigated and determined in a prior action that was based on a different cause of action.’“ State ex rel. Davis v. Pub. Emps. Retirement Bd. 120 Ohio St.3d 386, 2008-Ohio-6254, 899 N.E.2d 975, ¶ 27, quoting Ft. Frye Teachers Assn., OEA/NEA v. State Emp. Relations Bd. (1998), 81 Ohio St.3d 392, 395.
Although the party against whom “collateral estoppel,” or “issue preclusion,” is asserted must have been a party to the prior action, there is no general requirement that the party asserting collateral estoppel have been a party to the prior action; issue preclusion will apply so long as the party against whom a judgment is applied had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the matter, unless particular circumstances or justice justifies relitigation. Blackwell v. Gorman, 142 Ohio Misc.2d 50, 2007-Ohio-3504; Nye v. Ohio Bd. of Examiners of Architects, 165 Ohio App.3d 502, 2006-Ohio-948.
In Hicks v. De La Cruz (1977), 52 Ohio St.2d 71, the Supreme Court held that when a party clearly had its day in court on the specific issue brought into litigation within the later proceeding, the nonparty could rely upon the doctrine of collateral estoppel to preclude relitigation of that specific issue. Id. See, also, Goodson v. McDonough Power Equip., Inc. (1983), 2 Ohio St.3d 193 at 200. Goodson recognized such an exception to the general requirement of mutuality to be a proper rule “where justice would reasonably require it.” Id. at 199.
Courts have recognized that the library board reasonably determined that the requirement that library patrons wear shoes is necessary to protect the health and safety of the patrons against hazards in the library, as well as protect the economic well-being of the library, by averting tort claims and litigation expenses from potential claims of injured barefoot patrons. See Neinast v. Bd. of Trustees of the Columbus Metro. Library (2002), 190 F.Supp.2d 1040; Neinast V. Bd. of Trustees of the Columbus Metro. Library (2003), 346 F.3d 585; and Neinast v. Bd. of Trustees of the Columbus Metro. Library, 165 Ohio App.3d 211, 845 N.E.2d 570, 2006-Ohio-287. See, also, generally, Neinast v. Ohio Expositions Comm. (Sep. 15, 2009), Franklin App. No. O9AP-3498, 2009-Ohio-4850. The same principal holds true here.
A board of trustees of municipal library had authority to promulgate and enforce rule requiring library patrons to wear footwear. Neinast v. Bd. of Trustees of the Columbus Metro. Library, 165 Ohio App.3d 211, 845 N.E.2d 570, 2006-Ohio-287 (Ohio App. 10 Dist. Jan 26, 2006) (NO. O5AP-668). A library board has the express statutory authority to make and publish rules for the “proper operation and management” of the library. Id. The adoption of a code of conduct including a footwear requirement directly concerns the proper operation and management of the library. Id.
Under R.C. 3375.06, a board of library trustees “shall have the control and management of the county free public library, and in the exercise of such control and management shall be governed by sections 3375.33 to 3375.41, inclusive, of the Revised Code.” Id. R.C. 3375.33 provides that “[t]he boards of library trustees * * * are bodies politic and corporate, and as such are capable of suing and being sued, contracting, acquiring, holding, possessing, and disposing of real and personal property, and of exercising such other powers and privileges as are conferred upon them by law.” See, generally, Blue Cross of Northeast Ohio v. Ratchford (1980), 64 Ohio St.2d 256, 259-260, 18 O.O.3d 450, 416 N.E.2d 614 (recognizing that the General Assembly can delegate discretionary functions to administrative bodies and officers and holding that a statute does not unconstitutionally delegate legislative power if it establishes an intelligible principle to which the administrative body or officer must conform and if it establishes a procedure for effective review).
R.C. 3375.40(H) provides that a board of library trustees may “[m]ake and publish rules for the proper operation and management of the free public library and facilities under its jurisdiction, including rules pertaining to the provision of library services to individuals, corporations, or institutions that are not inhabitants of the county.” “R.C. 3375.40(H) establishes an intelligible principle that expressly empowered the board to make and publish rules for the “proper operation and management” of the public library under its jurisdiction. The board’s adoption of a code of conduct for patrons, which includes a footwear requirement for library patrons, directly concerns the proper operation and management of the public library under the board’s jurisdiction and, therefore, bears a reasonable relation to the legislative purpose of R.C. 3375.40(H).” Neinast, supra.
Upon consideration of the well-reasoned opinion of the Tenth District Court of Appeals in Neinast, supra, this court finds that the board of trustees had authority to promulgate and enforce a rule that requires footwear to be worn in the library.
In Neinast v. Bd. of Trustees of the Columbus Metro. Library (C.A.6, 2003), 346 F.3d 585, 593-594, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that protecting the safety of barefoot library patrons from documented hazards within the library and preserving the economic well-being of the library by averting potential claims by barefoot patrons who may be injured on library premises qualified as significant governmental interests. Id. A public library has significant government interest in protecting public health and safety, and protecting the library’s economic well-being by seeking to prevent tort claims brought by library patrons whose injuries could have been prevented by wearing shoes, for purpose of applying heightened scrutiny, to determine whether public library requirement that patrons wear shoes violated First Amendment right to receive information. Id. Since the requirement that patrons of public library wear shoes did not implicate a fundamental right, it was subject to rational basis scrutiny, for purpose of determining if requirement violated substantive due process. Id.
Further, the Federal Court in Neinast, supra, held that a public library did not violate any liberty interest of patron wishing to go barefoot by requiring wearing of shoes in library; requirement is rationally related to legitimate government interests of protecting health and safety of patrons, and protecting the library’s economic well-being by seeking to prevent tort claims brought by library patrons who were injured because they were barefoot. Id.
Here, Plaintiff was the party in previous litigations regarding the requirement that shoes be worn in a public library and had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the exact issues raised before this court as demonstrated by the above case law citations. Thus, Plaintiff is collaterally estopped from litigating those issue in this court.
Therefore, after reviewing Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiffs Memorandum Contra and Supplemental Authority, the above cited law and case law, and considering the evidence available to the court pursuant to Civ.R. 56(C), the court finds that granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant is appropriate on Plaintiffs claims for declaratory judgment and permanent injunction. No genuine issue as to any material fact remains to be litigated concerning the application of collateral estoppel to Plaintiffs claims. Reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion regarding the claims raised by Plaintiff in his Complaint, and viewing the evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, that conclusion is adverse to the Plaintiff and Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Temple, supra at 327. Thus, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.
Lastly, the court turns to Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. After reading Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant’s Memorandum Contra and Plaintiffs Reply, reviewing the pertinent law and considering the evidence available to the court pursuant to Civ.R. 56, the court finds that granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff is not appropriate. Reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion regarding the claims raised by Plaintiff in his Complaint, and viewing the evidence most strongly in favor of the party against whom the motion for summary judgment is made, that conclusion is adverse to the Plaintiff. Temple, supra at 327. Thus, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED
Upon consideration therefore, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby GRANTED and Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby DENIED. Any outstanding motions remaining in this matter are hereby OVERRULED. Case DISMISSED. Costs to Plaintiff.
It is so ORDERED.
CHRIS A. MARTIN, JUDGE
XC:ROBERT A. NEINAST
8617 ASHFORD LANE
PICKERINGTON, OHIO 43147
ROY E. HART
1. The court notes that, on November 12, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum Contra to Defendant’s original Motion to Dismiss. In his Memorandum Contra to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff incorporated said Memorandum Contra by reference. Thus, this court wilt consider the arguments raised in both Memoranda Contra filed by Plaintiff in reaching its decision. [Back]