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Governor DeWine Signs Bill Tolling Statutes of Limitations During COVID-19 Emergency Period

During his March 27, 2020 press conference on Ohio’s ongoing efforts to respond to COVID-19, Governor Mike DeWine officially signed House Bill 197 into law. HB 197, which passed the Ohio House and Senate with unanimous bipartisan support, contains important provisions affecting the legal rights of litigants whose claims may be subject to the statutes of limitations enacted under the Ohio Revised Code.

As applied to civil cases, HB 197 provides that any statute of limitations set to expire between March 9, 2020 and July 30, 2020 “shall be tolled.” This includes, but is not limited to, the specific statutes of limitations for contract and tort claims codified in Revised Code Chapter 2305.

The tolling of Ohio’s statutes of limitations is made retroactive to March 9, 2020 (the date of Governor DeWine’s proclamation of a State of Emergency in Executive Order 2020-01D) and will expire on July 30, 2020 or “on the date the period of emergency ends,” whichever is sooner. As it pertains to civil cases, HB 197 also tolls: “the time within which discovery or any aspect of discovery must be completed,” “the time within which a party must be served,” and “any other criminal, civil, or administrative time limitation or deadline under the Revised Code.” HB 197 also tolls limitations periods and other deadlines applicable to criminal, administrative, and domestic relations cases.

Parties should be aware that tolling is not an enlargement, but an interruption of the statute of limitations that prevents the applicable statute(s) from running (or expiring) during the tolling period. Accordingly, statutes of limitations that expired prior to March 9, 2020 or are set to expire on or after July 30, 2020 remain unaffected and are not extended or altered by HB 197. Parties should consult with experienced legal counsel to determine the impact of HB 197 on claims for which the statute of limitations would otherwise expire during the tolling period as defined by HB 197. In particular, the duration of the emergency period as defined in the Governor’s March 9, 2020 Executive Order will impact the legal rights of parties whose claims are subject to HB 197’s tolling provisions.  

While HB 197 impacts the statutes of limitations and other deadlines set forth in the Ohio Revised Code, it makes no mention of continuing hearings, trials, or individual case management orders. Parties should consult any scheduling orders issued in their own cases, as well as any administrative or general orders issued by the court in which they are appearing, to determine how COVID-19 is impacting deadlines and appearance dates in their case. A link to all administrative and general orders issued by Ohio state courts in response to the pandemic is available through the Ohio Judicial Conference.

For questions, contact BMD Litigation Partner Daniel J. Rudary at 330.374.7477.

HHS Announces an Additional $20 Billion In Provider Relief Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an additional $20 billion in new funding for providers on October 1, 2020. Eligible providers include those that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments as well as previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic. The new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.