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Report of the Insurance Law Committee

To the Council of Delegates:

The OSBA Insurance Law Committee respectfully requests your favorable consideration of the following:

Proposed legislation amending R.C. 2317.02 (the privilege statute) in response to the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Boone v. Vanliner Insurance Company (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 209. The proposal defines the words "communication" and "testify" as those terms are contained in R.C. 2317.02(A) such that communications between attorneys and their clients, even if the clients are insurance companies, can be protected from disclosure. The committee is of the opinion that the Supreme Court’s opinion erodes the attorney-client privilege significantly. This should be of great concern to all lawyers; thus the committee deemed that OSBA action is necessary and appropriate. The decision discourages the free and frank discussion between attorney and client. The privilege exists to encourage such discussions and must be solidified to halt any trip down the slippery slope.

Respectfully submitted,
Kevin C. Connell, Dayton
Chair

To amend section 2317.02 to read as follows to further define what information to or from a client attorneys are prohibited from revealing or testifying about in court proceedings.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF OHIO:

Section 1. That section 2317.02 of the Revised Code be amended to read as follows:

Section 2317.02. The following persons shall not testify in certain respects:

(A) (1)An attorney, concerning a communication made to the attorney by a client in that relation or the attorney’s advice to a client, except that the attorney may testify by express consent of the client or, if the client is deceased, by the express consent of the surviving spouse or the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased client and except that, if the client voluntarily testifies or is deemed by section 2151.421 of the Revised Code to have waived any testimonial privilege under this division, the attorney may be compelled to testify on the same subject

(2) As used in division (A)(1) of this section, "communication" means acquiring, recording, or transmitting any information, in any manner, concerning any facts, opinions, or statements necessary to enable an attorney to represent the attorney’s client. A "communication" may include, but is not limited to, any communication such as a letter, message, record, note, photograph, opinion, analysis, or other written or oral communication.

(3) As used in this section "testify" means to reveal information in a court proceeding, including, but not limited to deposition, interrogatory, document production, request for admission, statement under oath, in-court testimony, subpoena or otherwise.

(B)(1) A physician or a dentist concerning a communication made to the physician or dentist by a patient in that relation or the physician’s or dentist’s advice to a patient, except as otherwise provided in this division, division (B)(2), and division (B)(3) of this section, and except that, if the patient is deemed by section 2151.421 of the Revised Code to have waived any testimonial privilege under this division, the physician may be compelled to testify on the same subject.

The testimonial privilege established under this division does not apply, and a physician or dentist may testify or may be compelled to testify, in any of the following circumstances:

(a) In any civil action, in accordance with the discovery provisions of the Rules of Civil Procedure in connection with a civil action, or in connection with a claim under Chapter 4123. of the Revised Code, under any of the following circum stances:

(i) If the patient or the guardian or other legal representative of the patient gives express consent;

(ii) If the patient is deceased, the spouse of the patient or the executor or administrator of the patient’s estate gives express consent;

(iii) If a medical claim, dental claim, chiropractic claim, or optometric claim, as defined in section 2305.11 of the Revised Code, an action for wrongful death, any other type of civil action, or a claim under Chapter 4123. of the Revised Code is filed by the patient, the personal representative of the estate of the patient if deceased, or the patient’s guardian or other legal representative.

(b) In any criminal action concerning any test or the results of any test that determines the presence or concentration of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or alcohol and a drug of abuse in the patient’s blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance at any time relevant to the criminal offense in question.

(c) In any criminal action against a physician or dentist. In such an action, the testimonial privilege established under this division does not prohibit the admission into evidence, in accordance with the Rules of Evidence, of a patient’s medical or dental records or other communications between a patient and the physician or dentist that are related to the action and obtained by subpoena, search warrant, or other lawful means. A court that permits or compels a physician or dentist to testify in such an action or permits the introduction into evidence of patient records or other communications in such an action shall require that appropriate measures be taken to ensure that the confidentiality of any patient named or otherwise identified in the records is maintained. Measures to ensure confidentiality that may be taken by the court include sealing its records or deleting specific information from its records.

(2)(a) If any law enforcement officer submits a written statement to a health care provider that states that an official criminal investigation has begun regarding a specified person or that a criminal action or proceeding has been commenced against a specified person, that requests the provider to supply to the officer copies of any records the provider possesses that pertain to any test or the results of any test administered to the specified person to determine the presence or concentration of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or alcohol and a drug of abuse in the person’s blood, breath, or urine at any time relevant to the criminal offense in question, and that conforms to section 2317.022 of the Revised Code, the provider, except to the extent specifically prohibited by any law of this state or of the United States, shall supply to the officer a copy of any of the requested records the provider possesses. If the health care provider does not possess any of the requested records, the provider shall give the officer a written statement that indicates that the provider does not possess any of the requested records.

(b) If a health care provider possesses any records of the type described in division (B)(2)(a) of this section regarding the person in question at any time relevant to the criminal offense in question, in lieu of personally testifying as to the results of the test in question, the custodian of the records may submit a certified copy of the records, and, upon its submission, the certified copy is qualified as authentic evidence and may be admitted as evidence in accordance with the Rules of Evidence. Division (A) of section 2317.422 of the Revised Code does not apply to any certified copy of records submitted in accordance with this division. Nothing in this division shall be construed to limit the right of any party to call as a witness the person who administered the test to which the records pertain, the person under whose supervision the test was administered, the custodian of the records, the person who made the records, or the person under whose supervision the records were made.

(3)(a) If the testimonial privilege described in division (B)(1) of this section does not apply as provided in division (B)(1)(a)(iii) of this section, a physician or dentist may be compelled to testify or to submit to discovery under the Rules of Civil Procedure only as to a communication made to the physician or dentist by the patient in question in that relation, or the physician’s or dentist’s advice to the patient in question, that related causally or historically to physical or mental injuries that are relevant to issues in the medical claim, dental claim, chiropractic claim, or optometric claim, action for wrongful death, other civil action, or claim under Chapter 4123. of the Revised Code.

(b) If the testimonial privilege described in division (B)(1) of this section does not apply to a physician or dentist as provided in division (B)(1)(b) of this section, the physician or dentist, in lieu of personally testifying as to the results of the test in question, may submit a certified copy of those results, and, upon its submission, the certified copy is qualified as authentic evidence and may be admitted as evidence in accordance with the Rules of Evidence. Division (A) of section 2317.422 of the Revised Code does not apply to any certified copy of results submitted in accordance with this division. Nothing in this division shall be construed to limit the right of any party to call as a witness the person who administered the test in question, the person under whose supervision the test was administered, the custodian of the results of the test, the person who compiled the results, or the person under whose supervision the results were compiled.

(4)(a) As used in divisions (B)(1) to (3) of this section, "communication" means acquiring, recording, or transmitting any information, in any manner, concerning any facts, opinions, or statements necessary to enable a physician or dentist to diagnose, treat, prescribe, or act for a patient. A "communication" may include, but is not limited to, any medical or dental, office, or hospital communication such as a record, chart, letter, memorandum, laboratory test and results, x-ray, photograph, financial statement, diagnosis, or prognosis.

(b) As used in division (B)(2) of this section, "health care provider" has the same meaning as in section 3729.01 of the Revised Code.

(5) Divisions (B)(1), (2), (3), and (4) of this section apply to doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathic medicine, doctors of podiatry, and dentists.

(6) Nothing in divisions (B)(1) to (5) of this section affects, or shall be construed as affecting, the immunity from civil liability conferred by section 307.628 or 2305.33 of the Revised Code upon physicians who report an employee’s use of a drug of abuse, or a condition of an employee other than one involving the use of a drug of abuse, to the employer of the employee in accordance with division (B) of that section. As used in division (B)(6) of this section, "employee," "employer," and "physician" have the same meanings as in section 2305.33 of the Revised Code.

(c) A member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, or regularly ordained, accredited, or licensed minister of an established and legally cognizable church, denomination, or sect, when the member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, or minister remains accountable to the authority of that church, denomination, or sect, concerning a confession made, or any information confidentially communicated, to the member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, or minister for a religious counseling purpose in the member of the clergy’s, rabbi’s, priest’s, or minister’s professional character; however, the member of the clergy, rabbi, priest, or minister may testify by express consent of the person making the communication, except when the disclosure of the information is in violation of a sacred trust.

(D) Husband or wife, concerning any communication made by one to the other, or an act done by either in the presence of the other, during coverture, unless the communication was made, or act done, in the known presence or hearing of a third person competent to be a witness; and such rule is the same if the marital relation has ceased to exist.

(E) A person who assigns a claim or interest, concerning any matter in respect to which the person would not, if a party, be permitted to testify;

(F) A person who, if a party, would be restricted under section 2317.03 of the Revised Code, when the property or thing is sold or transferred by an executor, administrator, guardian, trustee, heir, devisee, or legatee, shall be restricted in the same manner in any action or proceeding concerning the property or thing.

(G)(1) A school guidance counselor who holds a valid educator license from the state board of education as provided for in section 3319.22 of the Revised Code, a person licensed under Chapter 4757 of the Revised Code as a professional clinical counselor, professional counselor, social worker, or independent social worker, or registered under Chapter 4757 of the Revised Code as a social work assistant concerning a confidential communication received from a client in that relation or the person’s advice to a client unless any of the following applies:

(a) The communication or advice indicates clear and present danger to the client or other persons. For the purposes of this division, cases in which there are indications of present or past child abuse or neglect of the client constitute a clear and present danger.

(b) The client gives express consent to the testimony.

(c) If the client is deceased, the surviving spouse or the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased client gives express consent.

(d) The client voluntarily testifies, in which case the school guidance counselor or person licensed or registered under Chapter 4757 of the Revised Code may be compelled to testify on the same subject.

(e) The court in camera determines that the information communicated by the client is not germane to the counselor-client or social worker-client relationship.

(f) A court, in an action brought against a school, its administration, or any of its personnel by the client, rules after an in-camera inspection that the testimony of the school guidance counselor is relevant to that action.

(2) Nothing in division (G)(1) of this section shall relieve a school guidance counselor or a person licensed or registered under Chapter 4757 of the Revised Code from the requirement to report information concerning child abuse or neglect under section 2151.421 of the Revised Code.

(H) A mediator acting under a mediation order issued under division (A) of section 3109.052 of the Revised Code or otherwise issued in any proceeding for divorce, dissolution, legal separation, annulment, or the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of children, in any action or proceeding, other than a criminal, delinquency, child abuse, child neglect, or dependent child action or proceeding, that is brought by or against either parent who takes part in mediation in accordance with the order and that pertains to the mediation process, to any information discussed or presented in the mediation process, to the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities for the care of the parents’ children, or to the awarding of visitation rights in relation to their children.

(I) A communications assistant, acting within the scope of the communication assistant’s authority, when providing telecommunications relay service pursuant to section 4931.35 of the Revised Code or Title II of the "Communications Act of 1934," 104 Stat. 366 (1990), 47 U.S.C. 225, concerning a communication made through a telecommunications relay service.

Nothing in this section shall limit any immunity or privilege granted under federal law or regulation. Nothing in this section shall limit the obligation of a communications assistant to divulge information or testify when mandated by federal law or regulation or pursuant to subpoena in a criminal proceeding.

Section 2. That existing section 2317.02 of the Revised Code are hereby repealed.

Section 3. This amendment is expressly intended to overrule, supersede, and/or vacate the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Boone v. Vanliner Insurance Company (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 209.

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