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Fair board lawsuit moved to Lawrence County

A breach of contract lawsuit over the construction of the county fair barn will be heard in Lawrence County.

On Monday, Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr., granted the motion to transfer the suit that was made by Proctorville attorney Don Capper, representing the Lawrence County Fair Board.

“This is great for us,” Capper said. “It would be a logistical nightmare to bring all the witnesses up to Stark County to litigate. I am very, very pleased. There was no connection to Stark County except that the contractor had his business there. The judge made the correct legal decision.”

In June Jeff Simmons, owner of Structure Steel of Canton, filed the breach of contract suit against the fair board in Stark County, where his business is located. Simmons claimed that he had met the obligations set out in the contract between him and the fair board to erect a livestock barn and arena at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds.

That contract had been terminated in May by the fair board that cited excessive delays in the project and Simmons’ refusal to return almost $200,000 he was paid for work that the fair board said he had not done.

Simmons countered that the termination was wrongful and that he was rightfully due that money.

In order to have the barn constructed by the July fair, the board hired a second contractor, increasing its financial obligation for the project.

In August Capper sought a change of venue claiming the suit should be in Lawrence County, the location of the project.

“The bids were submitted in Lawrence County for the construction contract, all work performed in Lawrence County and the breach of contract occurred in Lawrence County,” Capper’s motion stated.

Simmons’ attorney Robert Soles argued that Ohio Civil Rule states the proper venue is “in the county in which all or part of the claim for relief arose” and if that condition is met, the plaintiff has the right to choose where the case will be heard.

Capper countered that since the fair board is a political subdivision the venue of the suit should be where the fair board has its principal office according to Ohio Civil Rule and a state Supreme Court case.

Recently Capper also filed a countersuit to Simmons’ action in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. Simmons has yet to respond to that nor has a judge been assigned to the case.