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Date: 01-18-2021

Case Style:


Case Number: 20CAE030019

Judge: Patricia Ann Delaney


Plaintiff's Attorney:

Defendant's Attorney:

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Canton, Ohio - Civil attorney represented Carrie Perini with appealing the decision of the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment to Defendants-Appellees Howard Hillman and Tscapes Outdoor Solutions.

Perini and Hillman reside on adjacent rural properties, with Perini's property
to the north and west of Hillman's property. Perini's north/south driveway runs along the
property line. In the 1990s, Perini planted over 70 white pine trees along the east side of
the driveway to act as a screen between her property and the neighboring property where
Hillman took up residence in 2016. Perini’s neighbor to the west, George Resonivich, also
planted similar pine trees on the other side of the shared driveway to create a symmetrical
{¶3} In June 2018, Hillman hired Tscapes Outdoor Solutions to perform some
landscaping tasks on his property including the removal of branches from approximately
60 pine trees that are the subject of this case. Tscapes removed several branches from
the trees, though Hillman and Tscapes contest the details of the instructions provided and
who was ultimately responsible for the number of branches removed. We need not
resolve that issue in the context of this appeal.
{¶4} Perini states she was away when the trees were trimmed and that she was
devastated to see that approximately 800 branches had been removed from around the
base of over sixty trees, removing the visual screen between her residence and Hillman’s.
This resulted in the canopy of the trees being raised four to six feet from the ground. The
branches will not grow back. While some of the branches were dead as claimed by
Appellees, Perini claims that many of the branches were obviously alive and submitted
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 3
photographs to the trial court in support of her contention. Perini contacted two landscape
architects for estimates to restore the visual screen between the properties and discussed
a possible resolution of the matter with Hillman. The parties were unable to come to an
agreement and Perini filed a complaint.
{¶5} Perini’s complaint alleged that Appellees "violated R.C. 901.51 by
intentionally and recklessly cutting down, destroying, and otherwise injuring the trees that
were standing or growing on Plaintiffs' property." In the alternative, Perini claimed that the
Appellees negligently cut trees and trespassed on her property. She asked for "damages
in excess of $15,000 for the damage to their property, the loss of the peaceful and quiet
enjoyment of their property, and the diminution in value of their property" (Complaint,
Paragraphs 26-27). Hillman filed an answer and counterclaim as well as a crossclaim
against Tscapes. Tscapes filed an answer to the complaint, an answer to Hillman's
crossclaim, and a crossclaim against Hillman. Hillman filed an answer to Tscapes
crossclaim, closing the pleadings.
{¶6} At the close of the pleadings, the trial court issued a scheduling order on
March 28, 2019. The order contained a provision captioned "Disclosure of Expert
Witnesses" which is the source of the report requirement that culminated in the grant of
summary judgment.
{¶7} Perini did not provide any reports from her experts, so that portion of the
Scheduling Order was not fulfilled. On August 23, 2019 Hillman moved to exclude the
Perini’s named experts citing the failure to comply with the Scheduling Order, specifically
the failure to provide reports. Perini responded in a memorandum contra filed on
September 9, 2019 claiming that she had "complied in all relevant aspects with the Court's
Scheduling Order." (Plaintiffs' Memorandum In Opposition to Defendant Hillman's Motion
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 4
To Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Witness(es), Sep. 9, 2019, p. 1 Docket No. 22). She did not
deny that she did not provide reports as required by the scheduling order, but explained
that none were provided "because no such reports exist." Id. Perini conceded that "[t]he
testimony of arborists and landscapers -- if it can even be deemed true expert testimony
-- may be necessary to explain the options to ameliorate the damages Plaintiffs suffered"
and but stated that "this is not the typical expert engagement, which is why no reports
have been produced." Id. at 2.
{¶8} Hillman filed a Reply and, on September 19, 2019, the trial court granted
the motion to exclude Perini's expert witnesses. The trial court concluded:
There may be circumstances in which an expert report is
unnecessary. However, that conclusion only should be reached by this
Court after consideration of a timely and well-supported motion for an
exemption from the Scheduling Order's requirement. As matters stand,
Plaintiffs have not provided expert reports in compliance with the
Scheduling Order and Defendant is correct that these experts' opinions are
properly excluded.
(Judgment Entry Granting Defendant's Motion To Exclude Plaintiffs' Expert Witnesses
Sep. 18, 2019, Docket No. 24, p 4).
{¶9} Hillman and Tscapes filed separate motions for summary judgment on
October 11, 2019 listing several bases for the motion, but for purposes of this appeal we
limit our review to the Appellees' assertion that summary judgment was appropriate
because Perini could not prove damages without expert testimony and, because the trial
court excluded Perini's expert witnesses, the complaint must be dismissed.
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 5
{¶10} Perini responded to the motions for summary judgment by arguing she did
not need expert testimony to prove damages, citing to our decision in Telle v. Pasley, 5th
Dist. Delaware No. 12 CAE 08 0048, 2013-Ohio-2407, ¶ 34 and by expressly stating
"Plaintiffs are not required by Ohio law to seek damages based on diminution in value,
and that is not what they are seeking." (Appellant's Memorandum Contra Hillman Motion
for Summary Judgment, Nov. 7, 2019, Docket No. 35, p.11). Perini argued that Telle
supported her plan to rely on the introduction of estimates to restore and repair the
property. Perini also referred to the decision in Reynolds v. Bauer, 2nd Dist. Montgomery
No. 21179, 2006-Ohio-2912, to support her contention that expert testimony was not
needed to prove restoration costs.
{¶11} The trial court rejected Perini's arguments and granted summary judgment
holding that Perini was obligated to present expert testimony to prove damages. The court
rejected Perini's reliance on our decision in Telle noting "the plaintiffs [in Telle] actually
presented testimony and cost estimates from tree experts during the trial" and that "[t]he
issue in Telle v. Pasley was not whether expert testimony was needed but, rather, whether
the measure of damages was the restoration costs or the diminution of the property's
value as a result of the tree cutting.” (Judgment Entry Ruling On Defendants' Summary
Judgment Motions, Jan, 30, 2020, Docket No. 39, p. 8).
{¶12} The trial court also relied upon the decision in Denoyer v. Lamb, 22 Ohio
App.3d 136, 490 N.E.2d 615 (1st Dist.1984), to hold that "[a] landowner may recover the
costs of reasonable restoration of his property to its preexisting condition or to a condition
as close as reasonably feasible, without requiring grossly disproportionate expenditures
and with allowance for the natural processes of regeneration within a reasonable period
of time" and that "an expert would have the requisite knowledge to estimate restoration
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 6
costs," but Perini had been barred from submitting expert testimony for her failure to
comply with the court’s scheduling order. Id. at pp. 8-9. The trial court concluded that
Perini's evidence did not support a damage award and therefore, Hillman and Tscapes
were entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
{¶13} It is from that judgment Perini now appeals.
{¶14} Perini raises two assignments of error:
I. Summary Judgment
{¶17} Perini asserts in her first assignment of error that the trial court erred by
granting the motion for summary judgment because she could not present expert
testimony. Her argument is that "Ohio law makes clear that Perini does not need an expert
witness to prove her damages in this case." (Appellant's Brief, p. 12). Based upon the
record before us, we do not believe an expert is necessary to establish restoration costs
in this case.
{¶18} With regard to the first assignment of error, we review cases involving a
grant of summary judgment using a de novo standard of review. Bonacorsi v. Wheeling
& Lake Erie Ry. Co., 95 Ohio St.3d 314, 2002-Ohio-2220, 767 N.E.2d 707, ¶ 24. A de
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 7
novo review requires an independent review of the trial court's decision without any
deference to the trial court's determination. Brown v. Scioto Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 87 Ohio
App.3d 704, 711, 622 N.E.2d 1153 (4th Dist.1993) as quoted in State v. Standen, 173
Ohio App.3d 324, 2007-Ohio-5477, 878 N.E.2d 657, ¶ 7. “Thus, viewing the pleadings in
the light most favorable to the [appellant], we must determine whether [appellee] was
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Civ.R. 56(C). Troyer v. Janis, 132 Ohio St.3d
229, 2012-Ohio-2406, 971 N.E.2d 862, ¶ 6. “We afford no deference to the trial court's
decision and independently review the record to determine whether summary judgment
is appropriate.” Tornado Techs., Inc. v. Quality Control Inspection, Inc., 8th Dist.
Cuyahoga No. 97514, 2012-Ohio-3451, ¶ 13.
{¶19} Perini claims our decision in Telle, supra supports her conclusion that expert
testimony is unnecessary to prove restoration damages in the context of this case. She
relies upon our finding in Telle that the parties "presented evidenced that they obtained
an estimate" to support their claim for damages. Telle involved similar facts involving a
pine tree branch cutting in a residential setting. In Telle, however, the need to present
expert testimony to prove damages was not at issue, though we did note that both parties
"presented expert testimony as to the value of the trees before the cutting." Id. at ¶ 34.
The discussion regarding expert testimony in Telle occurred in regard to diminution of
property value as a result of the tree cutting or restoration costs, not to the issue of
restoration of costs themselves. We agree expert testimony may be necessary to prove
diminution of value damages, however, we have not found nor did the parties or trial court
cite Ohio case law, which holds as matter of law that restoration damages in these types
of cases must be determined solely be expert testimony.
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 8
{¶20} Perini presents a claim for restoration of the screen provided by the trees
she planted at the boundary of her property. In this context, "the measure of damage is
the cost of reasonable restoration of property to the pre-existing condition or to a condition
as close as reasonably feasible without requiring grossly disproportionate expenditures
and with allowance for the natural processes of regeneration within a reasonable period
of time. (Emphasis added.) Telle, supra at ¶ 31, quoting Denoyer v. Lamb, 22 Ohio
App.3d 136, 490 N.E.2d 615, 616 (1st Dist.1984).
{¶21} Perini properly presented Civ. R. 56 evidence, via affidavits, demonstrating
three restoration cost estimates from two landscaping businesses: Keny/Blackford and
Hidden Creek, as follows:
Keny/Blackford Proposal No. 1: Removal of 24 white pine trees, 24 stumps
and repair lawn damage: $23,500, plus re-planting of 24 white pine trees
(approximately 6 to 8 feet tall), near original planting, for additional $6,800.
Keny/Blackford Addendum Proposal No. 1: a one-year watering, fertilizing,
and tree staking plan for new trees, for additional $6,510.
Keny/Blackford Proposal No. 2: Planting 48 Norway Spruce Tree in 6
groups of 8 each to re-establish a natural screen in between the existing
mature white pines where lower foliage was removed: $24,000
Hidden Creek Proposal No. 3: Removal of 24 White Pine trees and
installation of unspecified 6-foot evergreens: $68,240
Hidden Creek Addendum to No. 3: a one-year watering and mulching plan
for new trees: $42,623
{¶22} In reviewing the evidence most favorably to the non-moving party, we find
the type of restoration damages in the case sub judice can be determined from the
Delaware County, Case No. 20 CAE 03 0019 9
ordinary knowledge and experience of laypersons. “Evid.R. 702 permits expert testimony
where the subject matter is outside the realm of a layperson's common knowledge or
experience. Ohio law does not require expert testimony on all issues of cost-to-repair
damages.” Evans Landscaping, Inc. v. Stenger, 2011-Ohio-6033, 969 N.E.2d 1264, ¶ 24
(1st Dist.). Pine trees of these varieties are extremely commonplace in landscaping
projects and the lands throughout Ohio. Tree planting, water, fertilizing, and other tree
maintenance like mulching are also activities that most adults, particularly homeowners,
typically engaged in.
{¶23} Although litigation over improper tree cutting may necessitate expert
testimony depending on the damages sought, such as timber value for commercial
purposes, valuation of cut trees particularly of an ornamental or rare species suitable for
an arboretum, or if damages are sought for diminution in property value. However, this is
not case before us. A landscaper’s testimony about the replacing run-of-the-mill trees
would not, as a matter of law, require the use of expert testimony. The jury is capable of
determining the reasonableness of cost and necessity of the proposed restoration project
in their role as trier-of-fact.
{¶24} The first assignment of error is sustained.
II. Expert Reports
{¶25} Based upon our disposition of the first assignment of error, the second
assignment of error is rendered moot.

Outcome: Perini’s first assignment of error is sustained and the decision of the
Delaware County Court of Common Pleas granting summary judgment is reversed. This
matter is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion

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