Lawyer challenges Ohio ban on soliciting injured workers




COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A lawyer is challenging Ohio's ban on attorneys soliciting injured workers who file worker's compensation claims with the state.

Akron-area attorney Thomas Bevan alleges the Ohio statute violates his constitutional right to free speech and hinders "legitimate advertising activity," The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2aVRcWJ) reported.

"The idea is it's commercial free speech," said Ralph Breitfeller, a Columbus attorney representing Bevan.

Ohio law prohibits lawyers from personally and directly soliciting individuals, other than another lawyer or family member. The federal lawsuit, filed recently, asks the court to overturn the provision regarding workers' compensation claims.

Bevan filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus after learning that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine served grand jury subpoenas on a journalist. The journalist, who wasn't named, was being used to provide Bevan's firm personal information on workers' compensation filings, the newspaper reported.

DeWine's office has declined to comment.

Bevan's firm, which has represented many injured workers before the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, got personal information on workers compensation filings from the journalist, the suit says. Personal information in compensation filings aren't public record; an exception to the law allows journalists to obtain addresses and phone numbers but not names.

In 2011, the Ohio Association of Claimants' Counsel obtained a court injunction stopping Bevan from getting access to a docket of workers' compensation cases, said Philip Fulton, the association's vice president.

Fulton, who isn't involved in the lawsuit, said the state law keeps workers' health issues private and saves them from being bombarded with mailers and letters while they're trying to recover. By using a journalist, Bevan "is doing indirectly what he's not allowed to do directly," Fulton said.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com
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