The Ohio Supreme Court will take its show on the road next month as it hears oral arguments in three cases in Morgan County on April 6.
The visit, according to the high court’s news service, is the spring iteration of the court’s semi-annual Off-Site Court program, which it does twice a year.
“Part of our mission as an institution is to educate the public about the court system,” Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor stated. “By conducting oral arguments in communities across Ohio, students can observe the court in action and how the judicial branch works.”
O’Connor and Justices Terrence O’Donnell, Sharon Kennedy, Judith French, William O’Neill, Patrick Fischer and R. Patrick DeWine will travel to Morgan High School, where oral arguments will take place in, among other cases, Johnson v. Montgomery.
The case (2016-0790) addresses the issue of whether the Dram Shop Act limits the liability of a liquor permit holder when the intoxicated person who causes harm works for the permit holder and consumes alcohol as part of job responsibilities.
Oral argument previews state that the case stemmed from practices at a Dayton strip club called “The Living Room” where dancers paid the club $30 a night to lease space to dance and where customers were encouraged to buy drinks for the dancers.
According to briefs filed in the case, the dancers were not required to drink while working but most of them did, consuming about 30 to 40 percent of the alcohol sold at the club.
A dancer who worked at the club, Mary Montgomery, drove home from the club on the night of July 3, 2010 and hit a vehicle on Interstate 70, severely injuring Nichole Johnson, the passenger in the other car.
The injured party sued Montgomery, the club and the club’s owner, Michael Ferraro, alleging violations of Ohio’s Dram Shop Act.
A magistrate determined that Ferraro could not be sued but a jury eventually awarded $2.85 million in damages to Johnson and determined that Montgomery and the club were equally responsible.
The 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned that verdict, leading to the hearing before the Supreme Court.
On April 6, Johnson will argue that the employer played a significant role in creating the risk of harm by encouraging its workers to drink as part of its business plan.
She will ask the high court to reinstate the jury verdict that was overturned by the 2nd District court.
The club, on the other hand, will argue that the statute allows a lawsuit in only two situations: when the liquor permit holder serves a noticeably intoxicated person or when it serves a minor.
In any other situation, the club claims it holds no legal responsibility.
As far as its policy of encouraging patrons to buy drinks for the dancers, the club maintains that all bars encourage alcohol consumption.
Students and teachers will receive curriculum materials and case summaries for Johnson v. Montgomery and the two other cases to be heard before the justices arrive in Morgan County.
As part of the Off-Site Court program, local attorneys will team up with educators at the participating school to explain Ohio’s judicial system and review case materials.
On the morning of oral arguments, students will get the chance to participate in a question-and-answer session with the justices.
After attending oral arguments, the students will meet with the case attorneys for a discussion of the legal issues.
The other cases being heard are State v. Banks-Harvey (2016-0930) and Stewart v. Vivian (2016-1013).
This will be the 73rd time that the Supreme Court has taken oral arguments outside of Franklin County.