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Ohio Adds New Exceptions to the Definition of “Public Records” Relating to Dash-Cam and Body-Cam Recordings

By: Ami Imbrogno

In this day and age, it seems that not a week goes by without turning on the evening news, logging onto Facebook, or firing up a YouTube application and seeing videos depicting police encounters with civilians.  Many of these videos are recorded on private cell phones and released by private citizens; however, some of these videos have been obtained by individuals, news sources, or other entities via public record request, the laws surrounding which are changing.

On January 7, 2019 Governor Kasich signed into law HB 425, “Declare police body camera recordings not to be public records,” to be effective April 8, 2019.  The law does not declare that all dash-cam and body-cam recordings are not public record, but instead declares that “restricted portions” of the recordings are not included in the definition of public record.  The law defines “restricted portions as the following:

  • The image or identity of a child or information that could lead to the identification of a child who is a primary subject of the recording when the law enforcement agency knows or has reason to know the person is a child based on the law enforcement agency’s records or the content of the recording;
  • The death of a person or a deceased person’s body, unless the death was caused by a peace officer or the consent of the decedent’s executor or administrator has been obtained;
  • The death of a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the decedent was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless consent of the decedent’s executor or administrator has been obtained;
  • Grievous bodily harm, unless the injury was effected by a peace officer or the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
  • An act of severe violence against a person that results in serious physical harm to the person, unless the act and injury was effected by a peace officer or the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
  • Grievous bodily harm to a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the injured person was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
  • An act of severe violence resulting in serious physical harm against a peace officer, firefighter, paramedic, or other first responder, occurring while the injured person was engaged in the performance of official duties, unless the consent of the injured person or the injured person’s guardian has been obtained;
  • A person’s nude body, unless the person’s consent has been obtained;
  • Protected health information, the identity of a person in a health care facility who is not the subject of a law enforcement encounter, or any other information in a health care facility that could identify a person who is not the subject of a law enforcement encounter;
  • Information that could identify the alleged victim of a sex offense, menacing by stalking, or domestic violence;
  • Information, that does not constitute a confidential law enforcement investigatory record, that could identify a person who provides sensitive or confidential information to a law enforcement agency when the disclosure of the person’s identity or the information provided could reasonably be expected to threaten or endanger the safety or property of the person or another person;
  • Personal information of a person who is not arrested, cited, charged, or issued a written warning by a peace officer;
  • Proprietary police contingency plans or tactics that are intended to prevent crime and maintain public order and safety;
  • A personal conversation unrelated to work between peace officers or between a peace officer and an employee of a law enforcement agency;
  • A conversation between a peace officer and a member of the public that does not concern law enforcement activities;
  • The interior of a residence, unless the interior of a residence is the location of an adversarial encounter with, or a use of force by, a peace officer; and,
  • Any portion of the interior of a private business that is not open to the public, unless an adversarial encounter with, or a use of force by, a peace officer occurs in that location.

Those exceptions that allow disclosure upon receipt of consent of the subject may only be released with the consent if one of the following apply:

  • The recording will not be used in connection with probable or pending criminal proceedings; or,
  • The recording was used in connection with a criminal proceeding that has been dismissed or for which a judgment has been issued, and will not be used again in connection with any probable or pending criminal proceedings.

 The law also provides that if a public office denies a request to release a restricted portion of a recording, the requestor may file a complaint for mandamus with the court of claims, which will allow the release if it determines by clear and convincing evidence that public interest substantially outweighs privacy interests and other interests asserted to deny release.

Many of these components of the definition fall within other exceptions to public records and government entities are probably already withholding or redacting recordings that contain those components, such as confidential law enforcement investigatory records or information pertaining to the recreational activities of a person under the age of eighteen. However, government employees who handle the release and redaction of records should familiarize themselves with the new definition and continue to follow all other laws relating to public records.  For example, records should be redacted where possible and only fully withheld if redaction would create a substantial burden or would remove all value from the recording.

Government entities should also review their records retention schedules to make certain it addresses this type of footage.  They should remember that even if these materials are no longer public record, they could be relevant to future litigation.

Finally, the new law does not make it clear what procedures are required to be followed in obtaining “consent” to release records; it does not prescribe what lengths the government entity needs to go to in order to obtain consent or in which form the consent must be.  Those who obtain consent to release records should in the minimum ensure that consent is given knowingly and in writing.


For more information on this matter or any other civil rights and government liability questions, contact Ami at aimbrogno@mrrlaw.com or 440.505.2713.

Ami is an Attorney in MRR’s Cleveland office and focuses her practice on civil rights and government liability defense, employment and labor defense, public sector law, and education law.

 

Thank you to Carl Cormany for his 17 years of dedication and service!

MRR would like to thank Carl E. Cormany for his dedication and service to the firm over the past 17 years.  Mr. Cormany retired from the practice of law on July 2. His focus was on the defense of claims against local governments and their employees, particularly law enforcement officers, and defense of employment claims against governmental and private entities.

With more than 25 years of legal experience, Carl practiced at all levels of the federal and state courts and in federal agencies including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state agencies such as the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

“Carl was an integral part of MRR’s success and he will be missed at the firm,” said Todd M. Raskin, Co-Founding Partner of MRR. “We wish him the very, very best as he enters a new chapter in his life!”


Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Welcomes Steven Kelley to Cleveland Office

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder (MRR) is pleased to announce that Steven K. Kelley has joined the firm’s Cleveland office as a Partner in its Professional Liability Practice Group.

Prior to joining MRR, Steve worked at CNA Insurance Company for over 12 years, initially as a Managing Trial Attorney and then an Assistant Vice President in the company’s litigation department.

At MRR, his practice will focus on the defense of architects and engineers as well as other professional liability matters and product liability claims.

“With Steve’s experience and leadership in the insurance industry, his addition highlights our commitment to enhancing both the breadth and quality of services that we can provide to our clients,” said MRR President and Managing Partner Joseph F. Nicholas, Jr. said. “We are thrilled to welcome him to the firm.”

Mr. Kelley earned his Juris Doctorate from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio Northern University. He is active professionally as a member of the Ohio Bar Association, Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, Cleveland Association of Civil Trial Attorneys (Former President), Defense Research Institute, and is a Life Member of the Eighth Judicial District Conference.

MRR Article: Has the Supreme Court of Ohio Done Away with the Delayed Damages Rule?

By: Mike Byrne & Joe Nicholas

The Supreme Court of Ohio dealt a win for insurance agents and agencies with its January 31, 2018 decision in LGR Realty, Inc. v. Frank & London Ins. Agency, Slip Opinion No. 2018-Ohio-334.  In a 5-2 decision, the Court held that the delayed-damage rule does not apply to a cause of action alleging negligent procurement of a professional-liability insurance policy or negligent misrepresentation of the terms of the policy when the policy at issue contains provisions specifically excluding the type of claim that the insured alleges it believed was covered by the policy.  Instead, the cause of action accrues on the date the policy is issued.

By way of background, Frank & London Insurance Agency (“F&L”) procured a real estate agents’ errors and omissions liability policy for LGR Realty, Inc. (“LGR”) with effective dates of May 12, 2010 through May 12, 2011.  The policy included a specific endorsement excluding any claim against LGR by Plaza Properties.  During the policy period, a liability claim was made against LGR with regard to a lawsuit captioned Milligan Communications LLC v. Plaza Properties, Inc.  LGR’s carrier denied coverage on April 26, 2011, citing the Plaza Properties exclusion.

On April 17, 2015, LGR filed a Complaint against F&L, alleging negligent procurement and misrepresentation.  F&L moved to dismiss, arguing that the cause of action was barred by the statute of limitations as it had accrued on May 12, 2010 when the policy went into effect.  In opposition, LGR relied on the delayed damages rule previously articulated in Kunz v. Buckeye Union Insurance Co., 1 Ohio St.3d 79 (1982), to argue that the claim did not accrue until it had suffered an injury when coverage for the claim was denied on April 26, 2011, and as such, the complaint was not time-barred.  The trial court found for F&L, and LGR appealed.  On appeal, the Tenth District Court of Appeals reverse, finding that Kunz had not been overruled.  F&L appealed.

It is undisputed that the four year statute of limitations set forth in R.C. 2305.09(D) is applicable in insurance agent negligence cases.  However, the dispute over when that statute of limitation begins to run has been ongoing since the Supreme Court of Ohio’s decisions in Investors REIT One v. Jacobs, 46 Ohio St.3d 176 (1989) (holding that the legislature’s express inclusion og a discovery rule for certain torts arising under 2305.09 implies the exclusion of other torts arising under the statute, including professional negligence), and Flagstar Bank, F.S.B. v. Airline Union’s Mtge. Co., 2011-Ohio-1961 (holding that a cause of action for negligence exists from the time the wrongful act is committed).  While Justice DeWine’s concurring opinion in LGR Realty, Inc. makes it clear that he believes Kunz has now been eroded to the point of being overruled, the Court’s majority decision still does not go quite that far.

The majority provides an in-depth analysis of Kunz in an effort to distinguish it from the case at bar.  In Kunz, the insured previously owned several insurance policies that provided all-risk coverage.  These policies were then consolidated into a single policy, with the insured mistakenly continuing to believe that the all-risk coverage remained in place.  Therefore, the insured’s right to recovery would be barred before they are even aware that they have been injured.  In contrast, when LGR purchased its policy, it already contained the entity exclusion relied upon to deny the claim, and as such, the harm to LGR was complete and the claim accrued the day the policy was issued.  Given this minute, in not non-existent, distinction, it is not hard to understand Justice DeWine’s reasoning in concluding that “[t]he majority’s opinion today and the decision in Kunz cannot both be the law.”

However, the majority insisted that they need not reach the issue of Kunz in order to decide the case.  Moreover, the opinion uses very specific language to narrow the applicability of the holding; referring only to professional-liability insurance policies, and provisions creating specific exclusions.  Despite those efforts, it is not difficult to see how these could easily be expanded to apply in situations involving other types of policies, or instances where there is merely a lack of coverage, as opposed to excluded coverage.  While the confusion regarding the delayed-damages rule has not been officially put to rest, its applicability to insurance agent negligence matters is now hanging by a thread.


For more information on this decision and related topics, contact Mike Byrne at mbyrne@mrrlaw.com or Joe Nicholas at jfn@mrrlaw.com.

Mike Byrne

Joe Nicholas

 

 

MRR Legal Update: Second Circuit Court Decision ~ “Because of…Sex” Discrimination Protections for Sexual Orientation

By: Tami Z. Hannon

“Because of…sex.”  Three small words have garnered much spilled ink and legal opinions.  What is “sex?”  When is an employee discriminated against “because of” his or her sex?  Most importantly for this article, is an employee who is terminated due to his or her sexual orientation discriminated against “because of…sex?”

The support for sexual orientation as sex discrimination under Title VII is growing.  On February 26, 2018, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals became the second circuit to hold that discrimination due to sexual orientation is discrimination “because of…sex” as under Title VII.  This opinion joins the recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion which likewise held that sexual orientation discrimination is prohibited by Title VII.  These opinions have established new law for New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, while leaving the remaining states in confusion over the scope of Title VII’s protections.

Title VII Background

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employers from discriminating against current and potential employees on the basis of several characteristics.  The issue at hand in recent rulings has been the prohibition against discrimination “because of…sex.”  Prior to 2015, the courts largely agreed that “sex” discrimination applied to biological gender, and gender stereotyping (i.e. beliefs on how a male or female should act).  Courts largely rejected the notion that “sex” included discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital

In March of 2017, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals was asked to determine whether sexual orientation discrimination violated Title VII.  The Eleventh Circuit held that it was bound by its prior decisions that sexual orientation was not protected under Title VII.  As such, it dismissed Ms. Evans’ complaint alleging that she was subjected to harassment and discrimination as a result of her sexual orientation.  Ms. Evans sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court; however, on December 11, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

Hively v. Ivy Tech

In April of 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that discrimination “because of…sex” included sexual orientation discrimination.  In so ruling, the Seventh Circuit held that decisions based on sexual orientation are inherently based upon an individual’s gender as a female who enters into a romantic relationship with a male is treated differently than a male who enters into a romantic relationship with another male.  The only variable is the biological gender of the employee.  As such, the sole factor was biological gender, or sex.  This ruling was not appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was on this stage that Zarda v. Altitude Express was recently decided.

Zarda v. Altitude Express

Mr. Zarda was a tandem sky diving instructor for Altitude Express.  Mr. Zarda stated that he would occasionally reveal his sexual orientation to female clients as a way of making them feel more comfortable about being closely strapped to an unfamiliar male.  One of Mr. Zarda’s clients alleged that he touched her inappropriately and then revealed his sexual orientation as a way of excusing his conduct.  She told her boyfriend of this exchange.  Her boyfriend contacted Altitude Express to complain.  Mr. Zarda was subsequently terminated as a result of the complaint.  Mr. Zarda alleged that his termination was the sole result of his sexual orientation and his failure to conform to the stereotype of a “straight male.”

Under prior rulings in the Second Circuit, claims of gender stereotyping could not be based on sexual orientation nor was sexual orientation recognized as sex discrimination.  As such, Mr. Zarda’s complaint was initially rejected.  Mr. Zarda appealed the dismissal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the dismissal.  He then requested, and was granted, an en banc hearing. An en banc hearing is held before all judges appointed to that Circuit and provides the process for a court to overrule its prior decisions.  The granting of such a hearing signals the potential for a significant departure from prior cases.

After the en banc hearing, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a lengthy and disputed opinion holding that sexual orientation constitutes discrimination “because of…sex” as defined by Title VII.  The Court held that the purpose of Title VII was to make sex and those traits associated with sex irrelevant to employment decisions.  The Court recognized that sexual harassment claims were initially not considered discrimination as they were not based on being a female, but for refusing to submit to sexual requests.  However, courts soon drew the distinction that the employee was the target of the sexual advances because of her gender, making sexual harassment a form of gender discrimination.  Male-on-male harassment was also barred as being based on gender and as “a reasonably comparable evil” against which Title VII was designed to protect.  Based on those cases, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that sexual orientation discrimination was necessarily the result of the sex of the people involved in the relationship and ultimately a decision based on sex.  Accordingly, sexual orientation discrimination was found to be discrimination “because of…sex” in violation of Title VII.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals also held that sexual orientation discrimination constituted associational discrimination.  Associational discrimination was originally recognized under Title VII largely to offer protection for interracial marriages.  It was held that, in those case, employees were subjected to discrimination based on their own race and the race of those with whom they associated as it was the perceived racial misalignment that was the motivation for the discrimination.  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that rational applied with equal force to sexual orientation discrimination as it punished an employee based on the sex of the individual with whom he or she intimately associated.  As it is widely accepted a female should not be fired for having male friends, the Court found a lesbian employee should be similarly protected for associating with females, rather than males.

Impact of Zarda v. Altitude Express

The Zarda decision was far from unanimous.  Only 7 of the 13 judges hearing the case agreed that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes discrimination “because of…sex.”  Eight of the 13 judges found it was associational discrimination.  The allegation that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of gender stereotyping was only accepted by 6 of the 13 judges.  This sharp division shows that Title VII’s coverage of sexual orientation is far from settled.

Under President Obama, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was active in advancing protections for sexual orientation.  Under President Trump, the Commission has taken a more conservative view.  Regardless, once positions and protections are established by the courts, it becomes more difficult to change them as courts are bound to follow their prior rulings and interpretations issued by their circuit.  Given this, ongoing and future litigation will be impacted by these rulings regardless of any policy decisions made by the governmental administration.

The Zarda, Evans and Hively decisions have created a split among the courts as to whether sexual orientation discrimination is covered under Title VII.  Employers will need to be aware of the coverage for their specific business locations.  As courts are beginning to consider and reverse prior case rulings, we are also likely to see claims of sexual orientation discrimination increase as individuals seek to clarify Title VII protections.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to hear the Evans case as to whether Title VII includes protections for sexual orientation.  The decision not to hear that appeal was not explained, but could be the result of several factors including poorly developed legal analysis by the lower courts and allegations by the employer that it had never been served with the complaint.  As the split among the circuits grows, it will likely only be a matter of time before the Supreme Court agrees to decide the issue.


For  more information, contact Tami Z. Hannon at thannon@mrrlaw.com or 440.424.0009.

David M. Smith Promoted to Partner at Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder, Co., L.P.A. (MRR), is proud to announce the promotion of attorney David M. Smith to partner. David is based in the firm’s Cleveland office.

David joined MRR in 2013 as an associate. He focuses his practice on civil rights and government liability, and employment and labor law, as well as representing clients in a wide range of general liability matters including business disputes. Mr. Smith regularly represents clients in State and Federal Courts throughout Ohio, before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and has successfully represented clients in arbitrations under the American Arbitration Association and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.

“We are very proud of David’s accomplishments and extremely pleased to welcome him as a partner,” said MRR Managing Partner and President Joe Nicholas. “We look forward to his ongoing contributions to the firm and our clients.”

In addition to his current work, David has considerable experience handling commercial and residential real estate matters, contract disputes, appellate proceedings and administrative appeals. He began his legal career as the City of Cleveland Heights’ Assistant Prosecutor/Assistant Law Director.

Mr. Smith is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Defense Research Institute, where he serves as the Civil Rights & Governmental Committee Membership Chair. A graduate of Heidelberg University in 2002, David went on to earn his J.D. from Cleveland State University – Marshall College of Law.

 

Akron Legal News features Tom Mazanec in article: “Experts Weigh in on a Recent Dram Shop Act Ruling”

Experts Weigh in on a Recent Dram Shop Act Ruling

Published on December 8, 2017 – Akron Legal News

Ohio’s Dram Shop Act, Revised Code 4399.18, states that a person injured by an intoxicated individual can seek damages from a liquor permit holder if the injuries occur on the property and were caused by the permit holder’s negligence or if the injuries happen off premises, but the permit holder “knowingly sold” alcohol to a “noticeably intoxicated” person or to someone under 21 and the person’s intoxication proximately caused the injuries.

In September 2017 the Ohio Supreme Court put liquor permit holders and others on notice that patrons are not the only “persons” covered by the act.

In its 6-1 decision in Johnson v. Montgomery the court affirmed that the Dram Shop Act is “the exclusive remedy for innocent persons injured off premises by an intoxicated person against liquor permit holders and excludes all other common law negligence claims against permit holders,” said Thomas S. Mazanec, a partner in the Cleveland office of Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co.

“The court concluded that according to the law it does not matter whether the intoxicated ‘person’ was a patron or a worker, the same standard applies,” and that “a liquor permit holder’s responsibility for serving intoxicated persons does not change if that person is a worker or an independent contractor,” said Mazanec.

To read the full story, click here.

Bidwell Named Chief Operating Officer of Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder

Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder, Co., L.P.A. (MRR), is pleased to announce the promotion of Christina M. Koeth-Bidwell  (Chris) to Chief Operating Officer, after having served as the firm’s Controller over the last 10 years.

“This promotion is well deserved. Chris has been an integral part of MRR’s strategic growth and success, since joining us in 2007,” commented Joe Nicholas, MRR’s President and Managing Partner.

During her tenure, Chris has led and managed a variety of operational activities including financial management and reporting, operations management, IT and facility management and implemented protocols which have improved efficiency in time and billing, security, and various organizational costs. As controller, Chris also assisted with the administration of the firm’s various benefit plans and the execution of the firm’s expansion to Kentucky with the opening of the Lexington office in 2015.

She began her career as a manager and analyst for a multinational manufacturing company and has spent a considerable amount of time since performing strategic development and general accounting functions for both public and privately held companies. Along with her professional responsibilities, she is a member of the National Association for Professional Women (NAPW), Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), Northern Ohio Association for Financial Professionals (NOAFP), Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), and serves as Deputy Patrol Director of the Alpine Valley area of the BMBWAV Ski Patrol, an OEC Instructor and member of the National Ski Patrol. Additionally, Chris is a Certified Cash Manager and Registered Tax Preparer.

Named “VIP Woman of the Year” by NAPW in 2015, Chris is also a board member of the BMBWAV Ski Patrol and NOAFP. She earned her B.S.B.A from John Carroll University and her M.B.A. from Lake Erie College.

Department of Labor Issues Request For Information on Overtime Rule

Today, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a Request for Information seeking comment from the public regarding the regulations governing overtime exemptions. As you likely recall, the DOL revised the salary requirement in 2016 to require that exempt employees be paid a minimum of $913 per week (or $47,476 per year). This was a substantial increase from the 2004 level, which was set at $455 per week, or $23,660 per year. That regulation met with a legal challenge and was temporarily blocked by a federal court in Texas. While that litigation is still ongoing over whether the DOL has the authority to require any minimum salary requirement, the DOL has indicated its intent not to enforce the $913 per week requirement.

In light of the litigation, along with President Trump’s Executive Order requiring administrative agencies to minimize regulatory burden, the DOL has issued a Request for Information to assist it in creating updated overtime rules. The Request for Information is open until September 25, and indicates that the DOL is open to considering a large change to the overtime regulations. The Request seeks feedback on everything from the amount of the minimum salary to the duties of exempt employees to whether there should be no minimum salary requirement at all.  Specifically, the DOL requests comment on:

  1. Whether the $455 minimum level should be increased by an amount equal to inflation? If so, what is the appropriate measure of inflation?
  2. Whether the $455 minimum level should be modified to continue to exclude the lowest 20% of salaried workers in the lowest paying region, as was used in establishing the 2004 level?
  3. Alternatively, should the minimum level be set based upon a defining factor, such as employer size, geographic region, metropolitan area, or other factor?
  4. Should different minimum salary levels be set for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions rather than having one generally applicable level?
  5. How well does the salary amount match with the duties test? Does the salary level become the predominate factor? If not, at what point does the salary level no longer serve as a reliable indicator of exempt status? Would it be better to have solely a duties test? If so, what duties would accurately show exempt status?
  6. Should the standard duties test be updated? If so, with what duties?
  7. How did you respond to the 2016 revisions? Did you increase wages, decrease hours, switch to an hourly rate, lower the hourly rate to maintain the same pay level, change overtime policies, or some other method?
  8. Does it appear that certain occupations were no longer included as exempt under the higher rate? Did those occupations spend 20 – 40% of their time performing exempt functions?
  9. Was the cap at permitting no more than 10% of the minimum salary requirement to be paid by non-discretionary bonus a good level? Should it be tied to salary level?
  10. Should the minimum level be set to automatically adjust? If so, what measurement should be used? How often should it be adjusted?

This is merely the first step in the review process, but it does indicate a likelihood that revisions are forthcoming, potentially substantial. Given the political climate, any revisions would likely be more business friendly. I would not anticipate seeing any new regulations this year, but perhaps a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and draft regulations could be out next spring.  Comments can be submitted by mail or electronically. Instructions for submitting comments are included in the Request for Information. MRR will continue to monitor the DOL for any new guidance on this subject.

Tami Hannon is a Partner in MRR’s Cleveland Office. For more info, contact her at thannon@mrrlaw.com.