Knapp v. Ohio Dep't of Health, 21AP-453

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
Writing for the CourtKLATT, J.
Citation2022 Ohio 3401
PartiesLisa F. Knapp, Requester-Appellee, v. Ohio Department of Health, Respondent-Appellant.
Docket Number21AP-453
Decision Date27 September 2022

2022-Ohio-3401

Lisa F. Knapp, Requester-Appellee,
v.

Ohio Department of Health, Respondent-Appellant.

No. 21AP-453

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

September 27, 2022


APPEAL from the Court of Claims of Ohio No. 2021-00191PQ

On brief:

Dave Yost, Attorney General, Rebecca L. Thomas and Theresa R. Dirisamer, for appellant.

Argued:

Rebecca L. Thomas.

DECISION

KLATT, J.

{¶ 1} Respondent-appellant, the Ohio Department of Health ("ODH"), appeals a judgment of the Court of Claims of Ohio ordering ODH to provide requester-appellee, Lisa F. Knapp, with the public records she requested. For the following reasons, we reverse that judgment.

{¶ 2} On March 25, 2021, Knapp requested ODH run "a report for all Cause of Deaths in Ohio coded as Covid-19 (U07.1)," with each decedent's name, age, date of death, place of death, and other information included in the report. (Compl. at attachment.) ODH responded that it did not "have a report with the data fields that [Knapp was] requesting." Id.

{¶ 3} On April 7, 2021, Knapp filed a public-records-access complaint against ODH in the Court of Claims pursuant to R.C. 2743.75. In accordance with R.C. 2743.75(D)(2),

1

the trial court assigned a special master to examine the complaint. The special master issued a report and recommendation to the trial court. In that report, the special master considered whether the record Knapp sought was excepted from disclosure under R.C. 3701.17(B), which prohibits the release of "protected health information" absent consent or the application of a statutory exception. The special master concluded that the requested information did not fall squarely within the public-records exception contained in R.C. 3701.17. Consequently, the special master recommended that the trial court order ODH to comply with Knapp's public-records request.

{¶ 4} ODH objected to the special master's report and recommendation. In a decision and entry dated August 12, 2021, the trial court overruled ODH's objections and adopted the special master's report and recommendation.

{¶ 5} ODH now appeals the August 12, 2021 decision and entry, and it assigns the following errors:

1. The lower court erred when it ordered the Department to create a unique subset of data in response to a public records request
2. The lower court erred when it ordered the Department to produce Protected Heath Information, as defined by R.C 3701.17.

{¶ 6} We will begin by addressing ODH's second assignment of error. In that assignment of error, ODH argues that the trial court erred by ordering it to provide the record Knapp requested because it contains protected health information, which is exempted from disclosure under the Public Records Act pursuant to R.C. 3701.17. We agree.

{¶ 7} Ohio's Public Records Act requires a public office to promptly make copies of public records available to any person upon request. R.C. 149.43(B)(1). Courts construe the Public Records Act liberally in favor of broad access to public records and resolve any doubt in favor of disclosure. State ex rel....

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