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Supreme Court of Ohio: Aurora man should have sought remedy in common pleas court

KEITH ARNOLD
Special to the Legal News

Published: September 19, 2023

The Supreme Court of Ohio held that the 11th District Court of Appeals was not the appropriate jurisdiction to hear an Aurora man’s challenge of a board of zoning appeals ruling on a request for a permit to place a houseboat on a pond.
The state’s high court determined that Richard Duncan, owner of a three-acre parcel of land in Mentor that featured a pond, should have sought remedy in the common pleas court.
The court wrote per curiam that Duncan had an adequate remedy in the ordinary course of the law had he appealed the houseboat permit in the court of common pleas.
Duncan applied to Mentor for a permit that would allow him to place a houseboat on the pond in 2021, according to case background.
The man stated in his complaint that the city denied the permit, prompting him to appeal to the Mentor Board of Building and Zoning Appeals, which rejected it after a hearing.
Duncan filed a complaint, arguing that denial of the permit constituted a taking of his property, in the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in November 2022, the summary continued.
In the complaint he requested a writ of mandamus to compel the city to commence appropriation proceedings.
The complaint also included the following three counts: a count to quiet title, a count to preclude Mentor from enforcing or giving effect to the regulations it relied on to deny the permit and a count titled “Landlocked Properties Must Get Access” in which Duncan asserted that Mentor illegally refused him use of several easements, background provided.
Mentor responded to the complaint, filing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
The appellate court granted the city’s motion and dismissed Duncan’s complaint.
Additionally, the Eleventh District found that the man had failed to exhaust administrative remedies because he did not appeal the zoning board’s decision to the court of common pleas, dismissing the additional counts for a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
Duncan next appealed to the Supreme Court, which accepted the case for review.
“Duncan argues … that to bring a mandamus action to compel the commencement of appropriation proceedings for an alleged taking of property, he need only exhaust his administrative remedies before the government agency that denied his permit and does not need to seek judicial review of the agency’s decision,” the court wrote. “Duncan is wrong.”
Justices reasoned that the man had the ability to obtain complete relief from any alleged taking and need for appropriations proceedings by asserting his right allowed by law.
“The Eleventh District thus correctly dismissed Duncan’s request for a writ of mandamus because he had an adequate legal remedy by way of appeal to the court of common pleas.” the justices noted.
In response to the man’s additional complaints, justices reasoned that the appellate court correctly dismissed them.
“Duncan argues that the Eleventh District ‘should be able to hear all his claims … as it makes sense for judicial economy and time and effort to litigate them in one case and to avoid preclusion or res judicata later on in a later suit,’” the high court wrote. “But Duncan provides no authority in support of this argument. And preclusion and res judicata would not apply to these other claims, because they were dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.”
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