Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

State of Ohio v. Jaquan Jackson and Allegheny Casualty Company and Daniel Seifu, Case No. 2021-0742
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)

Robert Bliss et al. v. Johns Manville et al., Case No. 2021-0800
Sixth District Court of Appeals (Lucas County)

State of Ohio v. Davis A. Hill, Case No. 2021-0913
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Stark County)

Is Bail Forfeited If Accused’s Out-of-State Incarceration Prevents Court Appearance?

State of Ohio v. Jaquan Jackson and Allegheny Casualty Company and Daniel Seifu, Case No. 2021-0742
First District Court of Appeals (Hamilton County)


  • May a court order the forfeiture of bail if it fails to follow the notification requirements in R.C. 2937.36?
  • May a bail provider avoid forfeiture of bail if it demonstrates to an Ohio court that the accused is incarcerated in another state?

In late 2018, Jaquan Jackson was indicted in Hamilton County for drug trafficking and drug possession charges. The Allegheny Casualty Company posted a $50,000 surety bond for Jackson. He  and Allegheny agreed to a number of terms and conditions, including that Jackson would appear in trial court when ordered and he wouldn’t leave the state without permission.

In March 2019, Jackson pleaded guilty to the charges and was scheduled to be sentenced in April 2019. The day after he pled to the charges, Jackson traveled to Campbell County, Kentucky. He was arrested on drug possession, weapon, and driving offenses and jailed in a Kentucky detention center.

Jackson didn’t appear for his April sentencing in Ohio, and the trial judge told Jackson’s attorney that he was rescheduling sentencing until late May to give the lawyer time to locate Jackson. When Jackson didn’t appear for the May sentencing, the trial judge issued an arrest warrant for Jackson and ordered the bail bond to be forfeited.

The trial court issued a notice to Allegheny on July 3, 2019, that the bond had been forfeited. The Hamilton County Clerk of Courts mailed notices on July 8 to Daniel Seifu, Allegheny’s Cincinnati area bondsman, and to Allegheny’s corporate headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. The notices indicated the court set a Sept. 4, 2019, hearing date in which Allegheny would have to “show cause” as to why the $50,000 bail bond shouldn’t be forfeited.

The notices to Seifu were returned undelivered. Neither Seifu nor a representative from Allegheny appeared at the hearing, and the trial court ordered the bond forfeited. The decision was mailed to Allegheny about three weeks later.

Company Seeks Reversal of Bail Forfeiture
Allegheny indicated to the trial court that it wasn’t until after the September hearing that it learned Seifu was himself incarcerated, awaiting trial on federal charges. The company told the court it didn’t know that Seifu failed to inform the court about Jackson’s detention in Kentucky. Allegheny requested that the trial court set aside the forfeiture. The bail provider told the court that Kentucky authorities refused to release Jackson to appear in Ohio courts. Because it was impossible for the company to produce Jackson, the bond shouldn’t be forfeited, the company argued.

The trial court rejected the request and ordered the bond forfeited. Allegheny appealed to the First District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Allegheny appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to hear the case.

Late Notification Invalidated Forfeiture Order, Company Argues
Allegheny explains that an Ohio court can accept cash or a surety bond as a form of bail, which allows a person accused of a crime to be free from jail while the criminal case is pending. If the accused fails to appear in court, then the bail is forfeited to the state. Allegheny notes Ohio lawmakers reformed its bail forfeiture law in 2011 to ensure that bail providers are adequately notified of a court’s attempt to seek bail forfeiture and to provide the companies more time to produce the accused.

Since 2011, R.C. 2937.36(C) requires the court to notify the accused and the bail provider within 15 days of the court’s decision to declare the bail forfeited. Allegheny claims the trial court made no official entry in April that Jackson didn’t appear in court, so the company had no notice of his violation of the bond conditions. The company also asserts it wasn’t notified that Jackson didn’t appear in May when the court issued the bail forfeited. It wasn’t until the clerk of courts first mailed a notice in July, 48 days after the forfeiture order, that Allegheny and its bondsman were notified.

The First District ruled the trial court’s lack of compliance with the law wasn’t mandatory and that Allegheny couldn’t demonstrate that it was harmed by the delay. The company argues that the notice language is mandatory, and the appeals court has no authority to rewrite the law to include a requirement that the company demonstrate harm from the delay. The company argues that the trial court provided no notice in April when Jackson first failed to appear, meaning the company wasn’t actually notified of the violation until 83 days later. Allegheny states that failing to adhere to the 15-day notice rules violates its due process rights and cost the company meaningful time to attempt to locate Jackson before his May sentencing hearing. The court’s failure to abide by the notice requirements prevents the court from ordering the bond forfeited, the company concludes.

Incarceration Should Nullify Forfeiture, Company Maintains
Allegheny also explains a bail bond is a contract between the company and the state. Under contract law, a party can be excused from performing its part of the contract if it can demonstrate impossibility of performance, the company notes. The company argues that under R.C. 2937.36(C) it can avoid forfeiting the bond if it can prove “good cause” for failing to produce the accused. Allegheny notes two Ohio appeals courts have ruled that impossibility of performance constitutes good cause if the accused is incarcerated in another jurisdiction and can’t appear in court.

Allegheny indicates the accused in both the appeals cases it cited had been arrested in Ohio and jailed in Ohio. The First District ruled Allegheny’s impossibility claim doesn’t constitute good cause because Jackson fled to Kentucky, violating his bond terms. The First District ruled the impossibility argument doesn’t apply to cases where the person flees to another state.

Allegheny notes that 21 states have laws that prevent the forfeiture of a bond when the accused is jailed in another state. Allegheny argues Ohio’s law shouldn’t discriminate based on if the person is jailed in-state or out-of-state.

Forfeiture Appropriate, Prosecutor Asserts
The Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office notes that Allegheny and its agent took responsibility for Jackson’s court appearance when it issued a bail bond in 2018. The company made no efforts to locate or learn of Jackson’s whereabouts until after it received notice of the forfeiture. Even then, the company didn’t appear in court for the forfeiture hearing and waited until October 2019 to object to losing the bail, the office states. The prosecutor argues the law doesn’t indicate strict adherence to the timeline is required to proceed with forfeiture.

The office notes the First District followed rulings by other appeals courts, which ruled that the bail provider must provide proof that it was harmed by the delay. The office notes the best time for Allegheny to demonstrate it was harmed was at the September 2019 “show cause” hearing, but the company didn’t appear at the hearing to explain any harm.

The prosecutor argues Allegheny wouldn’t have been able to comply with the court order regardless of when it was notified. Jackson was jailed in Kentucky the day after he posted bond. At the show cause hearing, the company wouldn’t have been able to produce Jackson and would have been ordered to forfeit the bond, the prosecutor maintains. And the company couldn’t argue impossibility at that hearing because Jackson fled the state, the office asserts.

Impossibility Not Valid Excuse, Prosecutor Argues
The prosecutor argues there are two reasons the contract rule of impossibility of performance doesn’t apply in cases where the accused absconds to another state and is arrested. First, impossibility applies when the condition making performance impossible is “unforeseeable,” the prosecutor asserts. The office maintains it’s completely foreseeable that someone accused of a crime in Hamilton County would flee to neighboring Kentucky. Second, the reasons for impossibility must be caused by “an act of God,” a provision of a law, or an act by the other party to the contract, the office explains.

When Ohio law enforcement in another jurisdiction arrest and jail an accused, then it is Ohio — the other party to the contract — that makes it impossible for the bail provider to comply with the contract, the prosecutor asserts, and the impossibility rule applies. That’s not the case when another state prevents the bail provider from fulfilling its duties, the office concludes, and why the impossibility rules doesn’t apply.

Friend-of-the-Court Brief Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting the Allegheny’s position has been submitted by the Ohio Bail Agents Association.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Allegheny Casualty Company: Sandra Kelly, 216.328.2128

Representing the State of Ohio from the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office: James Sayre, 515.946.3219

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Did Appellate Court Improperly Overturn Jury Verdict?

Robert Bliss et al. v. Johns Manville et al., Case No. 2021-0800
Sixth District Court of Appeals (Lucas County)

ISSUE: After a jury verdict, may an appellate court reverse a trial court’s decision to deny summary judgment to the losing party?

In 1978, Johns Manville installed a machine called a base fiber feeder at a Lucas County plant where the company manufactures insulation. The base fiber feeder uses two “lift aprons” to sort the fibers and separate them for further processing. The machine has a sensor that operates the conveyor belt that keeps the fiber moving. When excess fibers clog the machine, the sensor is blocked, and the belt slows or stops.

A machine operator pushes a nylon brush through an opening in the machine’s wall to brush the fibers off the sensor. However, in some cases, inserting the brush through the opening doesn’t remove the fibers from the sensor. The machine operator has a window to view the area that needs to be cleaned. Machine operators sometimes unlatched the observation window and reached into the machine to brush off the fibers, even when the machine was still in operation.

In 2013, Darrell Caudill was operating the fiber feeder and stuck his hand through the window to remove fiber. He injured his hand in the process. The company then installed bolts around the window to prevent the operators from opening the window. The operators were instructed to call the maintenance department to unbolt the window if they needed to reach inside.

Robert Bliss had worked at the Johns Manville plant since 1989. In 2015, Bliss was operating the feeder. He saw a clump of fiber blocking the sensor. The window was not bolted shut, and he opened it. When he went to remove the fiber with a brush, his glove got caught by the conveyor belt and he injured his hand.

In 2017, Bliss filed a lawsuit against Johns Manville in Lucas County Common Pleas Court, alleging the company intentionally caused the injury and was in violation of Ohio’s “intentional tort” law, which is R.C. 2745.01. Bliss argued that under two different provisions of the law, he was entitled to damages. Under R.C. 2745.01(A), Bliss sought to prove the company committed an act “with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur.” He argued the company knew after the Caudill accident that if the machine was operated when the window guard wasn’t bolted shut, then it was almost certain someone would be injured.

He also argued that under R.C. 2745.01(C), an employer is presumed to have intentionally caused the injury of an employee by the “deliberate removal” of an “equipment safety guard” on a machine.

Company Seeks to Prevent Trial 
Johns Manville requested summary judgment from the trial court, arguing that Bliss provided no proof that the company intentionally injured him. The company maintained this was an industrial accident, and Bliss’ injuries were covered by Ohio’s workers’ compensation system.

The trial court considered evidence provided during the discovery phase of the lawsuit, including a sworn statement from an expert witness hired by Bliss. Gerald Rennell stated the company showed complete disregard for employee safety by failing to secure the window with bolts and that the company “deliberately removed a safety guard” when it failed to ensure the bolts were in position when the machine was operated. The trial judge cited part of Rennell’s statement when denying summary judgment for the company.

The case moved to a trial in 2019, when again Johns Manville asked for summary judgment and was denied. A jury found for Bliss and found her was entitled to $451,000 in damages.

In its attempts to dismiss the case before it reached the jury, Johns Manville had complained that the judge inappropriately ruled on the matter by using Rennell’s statement to conclude that the company “deliberately removed” an “equipment safety guard.” Following the trial, the judge wrote an entry titled, “Opinion and Judgment Entry on Definition of ‘Equipment Safety Guard’ and ‘Deliberate Removal’ Under R.C. 2745.01.” The entry stated that that, based on the legal definitions of the phrases and without relying on information from Rennell, the company deliberately removed an equipment safety guard.

The company appealed the verdict to the Sixth District. The Sixth District reversed the trial court’s ruling, finding that the case shouldn’t have gone to trial and that Johns Manville was entitled to summary judgment.

Bliss appealed the Sixth District’s decision to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to hear the case.

Jury Verdict Should Stand, Worker Asserts
Bliss argues courts should be cautious in the use of summary judgment. He notes that Sixth District rulings have characterized summary judgment as a “just, speedy and inexpensive” way to decide lawsuits. However, the appellate court also has stated the process is open to criticism because it denies citizens their day in court and a right to a full hearing or trial. Bliss maintains Ohio courts have found that once a jury decides a case, an appeals court shouldn’t consider overturning the decision by ruling that summary judgment should have been granted.

Bliss maintains the company wants the court to decide the case based on limited facts and legal arguments while ignoring the testimony of witnesses and company safety documents that helped him prove his case. The Sixth District decision centers on Johns Manville argument that “equipment safety guard” and “deliberate removal” are undefined terms in R.C. 2745.01. The terms are “questions of law,” which need to be addressed by the judge, and are not “questions of facts,” in which witness testimony can be used to explain the terms, the appeals court determined. The Sixth District ruled that if the trial court only considered the legal arguments about the unbolted window, without relying on Rennell’s statement, it would have concluded the window wasn’t an equipment safety guard and the company didn’t cause its deliberate removal.

Bliss argues the trial judge properly used the expert’s statement to gather context but used his own legal analysis to address the issue. Moreover, because the company repeatedly objected to the trial judge’s denial of summary judgment, the judge took the extraordinary step of writing a separate opinion after the trial, the worker asserts. That entry included just the judge’s legal analysis of the two terms. Bliss maintains the trial court followed the proper steps and that it would be unjust to overturn a jury’s verdict based on the limited arguments produced for summary judgment.

No Injury Intended, Company Asserts
In its requests for summary judgment, the company explained that the fiber feeder used two lift aprons, but the company had a spare lift apron to use when one of the two regularly used lift aprons needed repairs. The windows with the bolts were connected to the two regular lift aprons, but not the spare. At the time of the accident the spare lift apron was in use. The company states that Bliss’ supervisors didn’t communicate with the maintenance department about bolting the spare apron’s windows shut. The window was never “unbolted,” because it wasn’t bolted shut when the spare lift apron was placed on the feeder, the company explains.

Johns Manville maintains if the trial court had conducted a legal analysis based on the facts, it would conclude that the company didn’t remove any safety equipment and that a window isn’t an “equipment safety guard.” The Sixth District conducted its own review of the legal facts and ruled that under Ohio law, Bliss failed to prove that a safety guard was deliberately removed, the company asserts. The Sixth District also found no evidence the company knew about the unbolted window and didn’t know use of the feeder would certainly lead to injury.

Because the trial court didn’t conduct the proper assessment, the case shouldn’t have proceeded to a jury, the company argues. The Sixth District properly analyzed did the proper analysis of the intentional tort claim, and the Supreme Court should affirm the appellate court’s ruling, Johns Manville concludes.

Friend-of-the-Court Briefs Submitted
An amicus curiae brief supporting Bliss’ position was submitted by the Ohio Association for Justice. An amicus brief supporting Johns Manville’s position was jointly submitted by the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the National Federal of Independent Businesses/Ohio.

Dan Trevas

Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Robert Bliss et al.: Kevin Boissoneault, 419.843.2001

Representing Johns Manville et al.: Mark Barnes, 419.224.6788

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Was Court’s Refusal to Accept No-Contest Plea Arbitrary?

State of Ohio v. Davis A. Hill, Case No. 2021-0913
Fifth District Court of Appeals (Stark County)

ISSUE: If a trial court refuses to accept a defendant’s plea of no contest without reason, must the conviction be reversed?

Davis Hill was arrested in July 2019. He was indicted in Stark County, in part on drug possession and trafficking charges involving heroin and fentanyl-related compounds.

Hill made two requests for the Stark County Common Pleas Court to suppress evidence. He contested evidence found in the search of his residence and information obtained from a vehicle tracker placed on his vehicle. The court held hearings on each and denied his requests.

At a July 2020 hearing, Hill asked to plead no contest to all charges. The county prosecutor objected. The judge told Hill that the court rarely accepts no-contest pleas and noted that such pleas are accepted if there are possible issues for an appeal. The judge reiterated that Hill was entitled to go to trial. According to Hill’s brief , his lawyer told the court that Hill wanted to resolve the matter but was hesitant to plead guilty. The judge responded that Hill had two options – plead guilty or go to trial, adding “that’s the way we do things.” If defendants could plead no contest and appeal endlessly, the court would never get any work done, the judge said.

Hill’s trial was scheduled for early August. On the day his trial was to begin, Hill pled guilty to all charges. The court sentenced him to 16 to 21.5 years in prison.

Hill appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s judgment. Hill appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which agreed to review his legal arguments about no-contest pleas.

Offender Argues Court Arbitrarily Refuses No-Contest Pleas
In State v. Beasley (2018), the state Supreme Court ruled that trial courts can’t adopt a blanket policy of refusing to accept no-contest pleas. Trial courts instead must consider the facts and circumstances in a case before rejecting a no-contest plea, the Court determined.

Hill argues the trial court’s refusal to consider his statement that he wanted to plead no contest was arbitrary and made without consideration of the circumstances. While the judge tried to avoid the impression that the court had a blanket policy against no-contest pleas by saying the court “rarely” accepted them, the court made clear that it took pleas only for those pleading guilty, Hill asserts. He maintains this approach is essentially a blanket policy and affects all defendants, forcing them to either plead guilty or go to trial and risk a more severe sentence.

State Maintains Judge Heard Testimony and Arguments Before Refusing Plea
The Stark County Prosecutor’s Office asserts that sparingly granting no-contest pleas doesn’t mean that the judge doesn’t allow them when appropriate. The prosecutor also contends that Hill gave no reason for wanting to plead no contest – such as contentious issues about suppressing evidence or to avoid liability in a civil lawsuit.

Contrary to Hill’s view, the judge considered the facts in the case, the prosecutor argues. The judge heard evidence at the suppression hearings, including information about a confidential informant, surveillance, the search warrants, the drug buys, and the evidence found in Hill’s house, and on him. The prosecutor notes that the judge listened to testimony and the arguments of Hill’s lawyer and the prosecutor, then determined a no-contest plea wasn’t warranted in the case. The court exercised its discretion in deciding the case was not a novel one that required accepting a no-contest plea, the prosecutor maintains. 

Law Firm Seeks Statewide Rule for Pleas
An amicus curiae brief supporting the Hill’s position has been submitted by VanHo Law, a firm in Munroe Falls. The firm states that its former and current clients have repeatedly encountered the inability to plead no contest in Ohio courts. Courts are inconsistent across the state, the firm argues. It asks the Supreme Court to adopt a uniform standard for trial courts to use when handling requests to plead no contest.


Docket entries, memoranda, briefs (including amicus briefs), and other information about this case may be accessed through the case docket.

Representing Davis A. Hill: Rhys Cartwright-Jones, 216.272.1938

Representing the State of Ohio from the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office: Vicki DeSantis, 330.451.7019

These informal previews are prepared by the Supreme Court’s Office of Public Information to provide the news media and other interested persons with a brief overview of the legal issues and arguments advanced by the parties in upcoming cases scheduled for oral argument. The previews aren’t part of the case record, and aren’t considered by the Court during its deliberations.

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