An Ohio law firm, Bevan & Associates, is challenging Ohio’s statute that makes injured workers’ personal information private. Previously, the names, claim numbers and addresses of injured workers were available to the public via a public records request. The Ohio BWC changed the law making this information private with an exception for journalists. The law firm apparently is using a “journalist” to get this now private information and is using it to solicit business by direct mailing advertisements to injured workers. The law firm may argue that their advertising is commercial speech that is protected under the First Amendment and that the government must have a substantial interest in curtailing this speech. However, the state of Ohio will likely argue that the injured workers’ privacy concerns outweigh the law firm’s commercial speech rights. The law firm may also have issues as to whether or not they qualify as a “journalist” and/or whether or not it is permissible to obtain this information from a journalist and use it in a manner clearly in contravention as to the intent of the statute. It will be interesting to see how this case develops.
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