United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Kimberly A. Jolson Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER
A. SARGUS, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the Objection to the
Opinion and Order Denying the Motion to Compel (ECF No.
36) filed by Plaintiffs Murray American Energy, Inc., Murray
Energy Corp., the Ohio Valley Coal Company, and Robert E.
Murray (collectively "Plaintiffs"). On February 19,
2019, Plaintiffs requested the Magistrate Judge to compel
Defendants Cassidy, Cogan, Chappell and Voegelin, L.C., and
Patrick Cassidy (collectively "Defendants") to
produce privileged communications with the goal of
establishing various state law violations. (See ECF
No. 23.) On May 24, 2019, the Magistrate Judge denied that
request (ECF No. 34) and Plaintiffs timely objected. For the
following reasons, the Court OVERRULES
Plaintiffs' Objections (ECF No. 36.) and
AFFIRMS the Magistrate Judge's
well-reasoned Opinion (ECF No. 34).
Murray Energy Corporation is the nation's largest
privately-owned coal company; Plaintiffs Murray American
Energy, Inc. and the Ohio Valley Coal Company are two of its
subsidiaries. Mr. Murray, who is also a plaintiff in this
case, is the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer
of Murray Energy Corporation.
Cassidy, Cogan, Chappell and Voegelin, L.C. (the
"Cassidy Finn") is a law firm that is partially
owned and operated by Defendant Patrick Cassidy ("Mr.
Cassidy"), who serves as the Cassidy Firm's
case involves several non-parties, including: Denise Zombotti
("Ms. Zombotti"), Denise Jackson ("Ms.
Jackson"), and Teela Nii ("Ms. Nii"), all of
whom previously worked in some capacity for Plaintiffs and
who are now clients of Defendants. These women each hired
Defendants to represent them in hostile work environment
lawsuits filed against Plaintiffs. In 2014, on behalf of Ms.
Jackson and Ms. Zombotti, Defendants negotiated confidential
settlement agreements with Plaintiffs. In 2016, on behalf of
Ms. Nii, Defendants filed suit against Plaintiffs in the
Belmont County Court of Common Pleas.
representing Ms. Nii, Defendants sent Plaintiffs a letter on
December 2, 2016, stating in relevant part: "[f]or my
part, I am rather surprised that your clients have not taken
any effective action to keep Mr. Murray from sexually
harassing his female employees, particularly where they have
had knowledge of prior claims made by other women against Mr.
Murray (which we think would be admissible as relevant
evidence in any claim brought by Ms. Nii)." (Pls.'
Am. Compl., Ex. C [ECF No. 13-1].) On March 9, 2017, the
Cassidy Firm sent Plaintiffs another letter, this time
conveying the intent to discover information "about [Mr.
Murray's] long-time treatment of women in the workplace,
and maintenance over many years of a hostile work environment
based on gender that all of his principal businesses either
knew about, or should have known about." (Id.,
Ex. E.) The March 9th letter also stated that the Cassidy
Firm "believe[s] that [Mr. Murray] will be required to
testify truthfully about former claims about him ... by
former clients of mine (Ms. Jackson and Ms, Zombotti),
notwithstanding Mr. Murray having entered into Confidential
Settlement Agreements with each of them...."
on the content of those letters, Plaintiffs believe that
Defendants breached the confidential settlement agreements,
particularly the provision to which Ms. Zombotti and Ms.
Jackson each separately agreed to "keep all terms of
[the] Agreement completely confidential" and further
agreed not to "disclose any information concerning her
claim or [the] Agreement to any person, including, but not
limited to, any past, present, or prospective employee of the
Releases...." (Pls.' Am. Compl., Exs. A, B [ECF No.
14].) In Plaintiffs' view, by mentioning Ms. Zombotti and
Ms. Jackson's claims against Mr. Murray, Defendants
intentionally placed privileged information at issue by using
it "offensively in furtherance of Ms. Nii's
claims." (Pls.' Mot. to Compel at 5 [ECF No. 15].)
Therefore, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants in the
Belmont County Court of Common Pleas on April 10, 2017.
Defendants then removed the case to this Court.
allege contract, quasi-contract, and legal malpractice
claims, asserting that Defendants breached the terms of the
confidential settlement agreements to advance interests of
their current client, Ms. Nii. (See Pls.' Am.
Compl.) To prosecute these allegations, Plaintiffs served
broad discovery requests, which sought Defendants'
confidential case files and information regarding the
representation of their current and former clients.
(See Pls.' Suppl. Br. at 4 [ECF No. 31].) In
their supplemental briefs, Plaintiffs present the following
"overarching issues" that they aim to discover:
(a) What was the current scope of information Defendants
shared with Nii (beyond that currently known);
(b) What did Defendant Cassidy consider before sharing this
information (if anything);
(c) Did he discuss (in advance) the disclosure with either
Jackson or Zombotti and what was the substance of ...