Ohio Supreme Court Decision Sets Forth Elements of a Final and Appealable Order

Angela D. Kirk    Nicholas M. Smith    December 31, 2019

Despite a prior ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court, holding that a trial court’s judgment entry did not need to contain exact amounts due in order to be final and appealable, Ohio courts have wrestled with defendants who seek to unwind judgment entries and foreclosure decrees for failure to include exact computations for amounts due and owing. However, the Ohio Supreme Court has made clear, once again, that a judgment can be final and appealable even if ministerial computations are expected to be performed at a later date to determine amounts due and owing.

A judgment entry and decree in foreclosure is final and appealable, even without the specific judgment figures of any lienholder, as long as the judgment: (1) sets forth the liability of the parties; (2) determines priority of liens; (3) determines the extent of each party’s interest as well as its rights and responsibilities; and (4) orders the sale of the property.

Case Law

In Farmers State Bank v. Sponaugle the Ohio Supreme Court clarified any confusion among the lower courts as to what was necessary to constitute a final appealable order in a foreclosure action. According to the Court, a judgment entry and decree in foreclosure that sets forth the priority of all answering lienholders, but does not include specific judgment figures for those lienholders, constitutes a final appealable order, even if the final judgment figures for any lienholder are not included in the judgment.

In doing so, the Court revisited, explained and expanded upon its ruling in CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Roznowski, in which the Court had held that a judgment entry was a final appealable order even if it did include exact amounts for the Plaintiff’s collectible costs and expenses in enforcing the note and mortgage. As the Sponaugle Court noted, “[n]o judgment of foreclosure and sale would ever be final if we required courts to compute taxes and all future costs as a prerequisite for finality.”

Implications

Ultimately, a judgment entry and decree in foreclosure is final and appealable if the calculation of amounts due is a mere ministerial and mathematical task for the court simply to plug in the final amounts due each party after the property has been sold at sheriff’s sale.

The Court left undisturbed its holding in Roznowski that a party can also appeal after the trial court confirms a sale, an appeal that cannot challenge the merits of the case. An appeal of a sale confirmation entry is limited to whether the sale was held in conformity with the law and the amounts due are not miscalculated.

Sponaugle is helpful to foreclosure plaintiffs because the alternative would require the plaintiff to set forth the exact amounts due for each and every lien holder at the time of judgment, which can be months before sale, and which are virtually impossible to calculate. Obvious drawbacks to that outcome include a lender’s loss of all recoverable amounts incurred between the decree in foreclosure and the confirmation of sale, as well as the fact that it would be nearly impossible to have an accurate entry, denying a final appealable order upon which to execute a judgment.

Here, the court avoided these undesired results and kept the two final and appealable orders distinct:  the first entry, the decree in foreclosure, is final and appealable as long as it is clear who owes what, to whom, the order of priority, and that the amount due is calculable. The second is final and appealable once the trial court confirms the sale with an entry on the record.

tags: foreclosure, legislation, Ohio


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