The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to take three to six months before deciding a case it heard involving a Washington Twp. woman suing a pawn shop that she said sold jewelry stolen from her house.
Justices on July 9 heard oral arguments regarding a case by Irene Danopulos, who was the victim of a break-in at her home in which several pieces of jewelry were stolen and subsequently pawned in June of 2014.
Burglars stole jewelry estimated to be worth nearly $40,000 from Danopulos’ township residence. An alleged accomplice in the theft went to the American Trading pawn shop in the town of Cheviot in Hamilton County to pawn three items of jewelry.
American Trading paid the man $2,125 for the items and reported the purchase to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office instead of the Cheviot police.
After holding the items for more than 15 days, American Trading disassembled the jewelry, melted some of it down, and sold the materials to various buyers for $7,064.
In mid-July, a Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office detective went to American Trading after learning through an online pawn shop reporting system that the jewelry was there. He determined the jewelry sold there belonged to Danopulos, and requested that it be returned. American Trading told him it no longer had the jewelry.
Danopulos sued the Cincinnati pawn shop, claiming conversion, which is the wrongful use or withholding of someone else’s property to the exclusion of the owner.
The pawn shop argued it couldn’t be held liable for conversion because it complied with the provisions of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Act, which specify a 15-day holding period for the property it receives.
The trial court agreed with American Trading, and Danopulos appealed to the First District Court of Appeals.
The First District reversed the ruling, noting that even if the pawn shop was in compliance with the statutes, that alone didn’t exonerate American Trading if the goods were stolen. That led the pawn shop to appeal to the state’s highest court.
The Ohio Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case from attorney Robert Thurman, who represented the pawn shop, and attorney Michael Conway, who represented Danopulos. A spokeswoman for the court said a decision is likely to be handed down in three to six months.
Marianna Bettman, distinguished teaching professor and professor of practice emerita at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, has been following the case and told this news organization that she also expects the decision to take several months.
She thinks the pawn shop will likely come away with a favorable ruling, “despite something fishy about a teenager from out-of-state coming into the pawn shop with what clearly looked like expensive estate-type jewelry.”
Bettman said American Trading complied with the statute, and did not refuse to return the jewelry when it was still in American Trading’s possession.
Raphael Tincher, president of the Ohio Pawnbrokers Association, said he attended the oral arguments and feels the case should have been dismissed already.
“You have to intentionally deprive somebody of the right to their property,” Tincher said. “At the appeals level, the court made stretch on that. The pawn broker followed the law, and had held the property for 15 days and clearly reported it to law enforcement, which is what was supposed to happen.”
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