Appellate court dismisses Block Communications requestWritten by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
An appeals court recently ruled in favor of Toledo Free Press (TFP) on a request from Block Communications Inc. (BCI), parent company of The Blade, to deny part of an appeal filed by TFP.
The 6th District Court of Appeals on May 8 issued a nine-page opinion unanimously denying BCI’s “Motion for Partial Dismissal of Appeal for Lack of Jurisdiction.” The motion was filed in December 2013. TFP filed a reply to the motion on Jan. 29 and BCI filed a reply on Feb. 18.
RELATED: Read the court’s nine-page decision
The decision is part of an ongoing a civil suit between the two media companies. The original lawsuit was filed by BCI in October 2011, alleging TFP president and publisher Tom Pounds breached his separation agreement with BCI. TFP has vigorously denied BCI’s claims and filed a countersuit in December 2011.
Pounds, a former general manager of The Blade, resigned in 2004 and signed an agreement prohibiting him from disclosing any of the company’s confidential information and disparaging or taking any action directly or indirectly to harm the newspaper or its parent company.
BCI is seeking a variety of documents as part of the suit, including financial statements and a list of members of the TFP, a limited liability company. TFP has refused to turn over the information, asserting they constitute “trade secrets” protected from disclosure to a competitor under Ohio law.
In September, Judge Gary Cook with the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas sided with BCI, stating in his 49-page opinion that BCI’s “need for the information would outweigh the potential harm” to TFP. However, Cook also stated in his decision that he was “highly mindful of the important interests” involved in the case and that his ruling “is particularly well-suited for appellate review and guidance.”
In October, TFP filed an appeal with the Sixth District court, seeking to protect its information from disclosure to BCI. BCI moved to dismiss part of TFP’s appeal on the basis that it was untimely filed, asserting TFP was obligated to appeal from a November 2012 ruling in which the trial court granted a motion to compel the disclosure of certain information TFP argued was confidential.
Following the 2012 ruling, TFP sought a protective order from the trial court preventing BCI from gaining access to the identities of the TFP’s members and other confidential information. The trial court denied TFP’s motion in its September ruling, after which TFP sought relief from the Court of Appeals. BCI argued that TFP could not appeal the trial court’s September ruling, and could only have appealed the November 2012 ruling.
The Court of Appeals disagreed with BCI’s position, however, finding that the trial court’s 2012 ruling did not address the issue of whether the information sought by BCI was confidential or privileged, or protected under Ohio law as trade secrets. Instead, it noted that had TFP appealed that ruling, its appeal would have been dismissed as not final and appealable, and that TFP properly filed an appeal from the trial court’s September ruling. As such, the Court of Appeals denied BCI’s motion seeking to dismiss the appeal.
BCI has sought leave to file its own brief, after which TFP will have the opportunity to file a reply brief. Once the parties have fully briefed the issues on appeal, the court will then set a date for oral argument on those issues.