Michael A. Owsley
Sometimes, the best way to prove a case is to show what happened. Mike Owsley uses re-enactments in his work defending businesses and school boards from lawsuits to help judges and juries understand the circumstances of a claim, most often in defense work.
In one case, the family of a deceased boater sued a boat manufacturer. The boater struck an underwater object, flipping the boat over and killing him. Representing the boat manufacturer, Mike reviewed the circumstances of the accident, and believed the boater was much more to blame – given the fact that he was boating at 3 a.m. in an unlit area. So Mike hired a boater to re-enact the route of the boat and hired a video crew to film it. He showed it to the judge presiding over the case, who saw exactly what he did – pitch black. The court ruled in favor of the boating manufacturer.
In another case, a superintendent fired a teacher after her students reported to the school principal that she was drunk. The school principal summoned state police, who tested the teacher’s blood alcohol level. It was more than twice the legal limit for intoxication. The teacher protested her firing, saying she had taken a homeopathic remedy that had caused her blood alcohol level to spike. Mike asked his legal assistant, who was about the same weight and height as the fired teacher, if she would take the homeopathic drug and then a blood alcohol test in court. She agreed – and her blood alcohol level was 0.0. The tribunal upheld the teacher’s firing.
“Demonstrations are often the best way there is to defend a client against a baseless case,” Mike says. “It is often worth the time and trouble to re-enact an event as a way to prove the point. It’s the next best thing to having a videotape of the event in question.”
Mike has largely become one of the foremost authorities on school district law and policy in Kentucky through his extensive work with school boards. ELPO represents more than 20 districts in Kentucky. Each July, Mike and Regina Jackson, another attorney with ELPO, conduct training for the Office of Leadership and School Improvement of the Kentucky Department of Education. Every new superintendent in the state is required to have this training as part of their requirement to hold their office.
School districts need specialized legal counsel, Mike says, because representing a school district calls for balancing traditional employment law with Kentucky laws that apply to teachers and school administrators exclusively. Mike’s challenge is to stay on top of all of those laws, including employment, schools and First Amendment issues that pertain to both the students and staff within a school district.
Mike’s work helps school boards meet their duties to educate students and prepare the workforce of the future. “The administrators we work with are trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances,” Mike says. “But this isn’t easy. The laws that govern school boards are detailed and ever-changing, as is the case law in this area. We’re able to help school districts make sound decisions and avoid costly lawsuits by working with them and helping ensure their decisions are grounded in the law.”
Mike has enjoyed watching Bowling Green change and grow around him. He’s raised his family in the city, and has long been involved in many civic causes in the area and also in his profession. He’s served as the Past President of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce and a Former Director of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He’s been chair of the Leadership Kentucky Foundation and Director of the Kentucky Council on Economic Education.
“As a firm, ELPO has always been actively involved in helping the community meet its industrial objectives,” Mike says. “Bowling Green grew and prospered and became the community it is today largely because of the important work of the Chamber and those who have led it over the years.”