Court Corrects Error in MS Consultants Lawsuit Against Chill-Can

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A court has issued a judgment correcting an error made by the Mahoning County Clerk of Courts office that stamped the wrong date on an appeal notice submitted by attorneys representing the developer of the Chill-Can project.

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney issued a pro tunc judgment, correcting the mistake, acknowledging the “incorrect date stamp was a result of a clerical error of the clerk’s office.”

The correction helps clear the way for attorneys to move forward with an appeal to an earlier judgment that stipulated the developer, M.J. Joseph Development Corp., pay $322,907.54 to MS Consultants Inc., an engineering and architectural firm based in Columbus.

“We plan to petition the appellate court to reinstate the appeal,” said Justin Markota, an attorney representing M.J. Joseph Development. The attorneys would then request a court order to transmit the necessary records to the 7th District Court of Appeals.

MS Consultants sued M.J. Joseph on Jan. 17 for money it says it’s owed for work the company performed on the Chill-Can project, according to court documents. The court awarded a default judgment March 20 because M.J. Joseph’s attorneys failed to timely respond to the lawsuit, court papers say. According to court documents, the company was given until March 13 to respond to the pleadings and failed to do so, the judgment said.

M.J. Joseph filed a notice of appeal to the 7th District Court of Appeals on April 19. However, a clerk did not time stamp the documents until the following day, April 20, which was one day outside the 30-day allotted time frame to file the appeal, according to court records.  

The mistake led the court on June 30 to dismiss M.J. Joseph’s appeal as untimely. The clerk’s office acknowledged the error.

In a motion filed in March, attorneys for M.J. Joseph asked the Common Pleas court to vacate its default judgment, arguing the plaintiffs did not provide proper notice and service to the defendant.  

Attorneys representing MS Consultants have asked the court to deny that motion.

To secure payment, MS Consultants has placed a lien on the Chill-Can property on the city’s East Side, court documents say.

On July 12, MS Consultants filed a foreclosure action against M.J. Joseph to force the sale of the property in order to satisfy the debt.  

The Chill-Can project, first announced in October 2016, called for redeveloping 22 acres on the city’s East Side to build a manufacturing and research campus for self-chilling beverage cans.

The project was supposed to create more than 230 jobs. Three empty buildings stand at the site, and the company has acknowledged just a single employee in Youngstown.

M.J. Joseph Development and the city are currently locked in litigation over the project. In November, the court ruled that the city is entitled to the return of $1.5 million in grant money it allocated toward the project.  

A second ruling in July by Mahoning County Magistrate Dennis Sarisky ordered that the city is entitled to an additional $733,480 in sanctions, citing M.J. Joseph’s failure to comply with court orders mandating it abide by discovery requests filed by the city.

Last week, Markota filed a memo before the court objecting to the magistrate’s decision and requesting that Sarisky be disqualified from the case, citing bias toward the developer.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.