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.