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Ohio Court Operations and Access During the Coronavirus Crisis

On March 19, 2020, Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor gave an update on the State Judicial Branch’s response to the coronavirus crisis at a press conference held by Governor Mike DeWine. As of the date of this update, individual courts within the State of Ohio have the authority to issue their own emergency procedures regarding court access, trials, hearings and filings during the coronavirus pandemic. Most municipal, county and appellate courts throughout Ohio have already issued orders changing the procedures to be followed until further notice.  The Ohio Judicial Conference has an extensive list of links to these temporary local court rule changes at: http://www.ohiojudges.org/Resources/covid-19-emergency-planning

Although Chief Justice O’Connor is allowing local courts to determine how to operate in their communities’ best interests for the time-being, she has provided significant guidance on issues the courts should be considering, including:

  • The total closure of the court system in Ohio is not an option since it would prevent access to justice.
  • Courts must especially remain open to address criminal, emergency and time-sensitive matters.
  • Jury pools and the level of public traffic in courthouses should be reduced.
  • Judges should consider lowering bonds and issuing summonses instead of ordering arrests, depending upon the severity of the crimes at issue.
  • Hearings should be held by video or telephone conference when possible.
  • Clerks of Courts should remain open to allow for public filings.

It is important to emphasize that Ohio courts are still in operation during this time, and in most instances, there will still be ways to address whatever legal issues you are facing through the Judicial System.  If you have a pending court case, it is highly recommended that you discuss the court’s current procedures with your attorney and also discuss how these changes could impact your case practically and strategically.  Some questions which might arise, include:

Is my civil trial likely to go forward as scheduled?  Many local courts have postponed civil trials for 30 days or more, but you should consult with your attorney.

Should I appear in person for my hearing? Many hearings, such as pretrials and non-emergency hearings, are being conducted by the courts by telephone or videoconference.  However, hearings that involve evidence will still likely require a court appearance by you and/or your attorney.  You will want to ask your attorney how the court is handling your particular hearing.

Has my foreclosure or eviction been put on hold? Chief Justice O’Connor has recommended that foreclosure sales and evictions for non-payment of rent be put on hold temporarily, but this is still at the discretion of the local courts.  An eviction for an issue other than non-payment of rent will likely not be put on hold by your local court.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development has placed a hold on foreclosures of mortgages backed by the federal government until the end of April 2020 and some banks are also placing a temporary stay on their foreclosure filings.  Contact your attorney or bank with questions.

Do the deadlines that were previously set in my case still apply?  Yes.  All deadlines for answers, motions, discovery cutoffs and other time-limits still apply unless you or your attorney ask the Court for an extension of the deadline, and it is granted.

Can I file a new case, vehicle title or other filing at the Clerk of Courts?  Clerks of Courts remain open for business throughout the State of Ohio.  You will want to call ahead to see if your filing can be received in person, by mail, or electronically.

I’ve been ordered to appear for jury duty, what should I do?  Call the juror call-in number provided on your juror summons to find out if you need to appear at the Court in person.

All of these guidelines are for municipal, county and appellate courts in Ohio only. If you have a case pending in Federal Court or in a different State, you will want to carefully check that court’s particular coronavirus response. As always, the Litigation Team at Brennan, Manna & Diamond is ready to assist and advise you with your legal needs during this difficult time.  Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions that you might have.

Ohio Supreme Court Clarifies Medical Statute of Limitations

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a decision in late December that clarifies and finalizes the Ohio law regarding the period of time in which patients can assert claims for medical malpractice. The Court was examining the interplay between three different statutes being the statute of limitations, the statute of repose, and the savings statute.

Ohio Hospitals and Healthcare Clinics: It’s Time to Revisit Your Billing and Collection Practices

According to a recent Cuyahoga County case, certain healthcare entities may not be protected from liability when engaging in unfair or deceptive billing acts. This decision is consistent with the growing trend across the country to encourage price transparency and eliminate unfair surprise billing practices by health care organizations. Now is the time for hospitals and other health care organizations to revisit their billing and collection policies and procedures to confirm that they are legally defensible and consistent with best practices.

HIPAA Business Associate Agreements: Why These Contracts Matter

No one loves drafting, reading or negotiating HIPAA Business Associate Agreements (BAAs). Yet many of us need to do so, and some of us do so daily. They are often boring, dense and technical, but BAAs are important from both a legal and a business perspective, and they deserve our attention. Failure to enter a BAA when one is required can constitute a HIPAA violation that results in substantial liability, as demonstrated by certain recent Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) settlements.1 A business associate who makes a disclosure that is not authorized by the applicable BAA or required by law can be subject to civil and, in some cases, criminal penalties. Further, parties are often presented with BAAs that contain onerous one-sided indemnification and other provisions that can be devasting to an organization in the event of a HIPAA breach. The significance of a BAA is often not fully understood by the parties until something goes wrong (e.g., a HIPAA security incident or breach, an Office of Civil Rights (OCR) audit or a fracture in the relationship between the parties) and, at that point, there is limited opportunity to mitigate legal and business risk. Ideally, attention should be given at the commencement of the business associate relationship, when the parties are able, to thoughtfully addressing regulatory requirements, planning and preparing for potential adverse events and appropriately allocating risk among the parties. As with most healthcare regulatory compliance initiatives, a proactive approach with respect to BAAs is preferable. This article provides a broad overview of certain BAA requirements and some practical negotiating tips for the parties involved.

“I’m Out Of Here!” Now What?

We all know that the healthcare industry is experiencing a wave of integration. This trend has been evident for many years. Fewer physicians are willing to assume the legal, financial and other business risks associated with owning their own practices. More and more physicians, including anesthesiologists, are becoming employed by large physician groups, health systems and national providers. This shift necessarily involves not only entry into new employment arrangements but also the termination of existing relationships. And those terminations are often governed by written employment agreements, state and federal healthcare laws and employer benefit plans and other policies and procedures. Before pursuing their next opportunity, physicians should pause for a moment and first attend to the arrangement that they are leaving. Departing physicians need to understand their legal rights and obligations when leaving their current employment relationships in order to avoid unintended consequences and detrimental missteps along the way. Here are a few words of practical advice for physicians contemplating an exit from their current employment arrangements.

Investment Training for the Second and Third Generations

Consider this scenario. Mom and Dad started the business from the ground up. Over the decades it has expanded into a money-making machine. They are able to sell the business and it results in a multimillion-dollar payday for their labors. The excess money has allowed Mom and Dad to invest with various financial advising firms, several fund management groups, and directly with new startups and joint ventures. Their experience has made them savvy investors, with a detailed understanding of how much to invest, when, and where. They cannot justify formation of a full family office with dedicated investors to manage the funds, but Mom and Dad have set up a trust fund for the children to allow these investments to continue to grow over the years. Eventually, Mom and Dad pass. Their children enjoy the fruits of their labors, and, by the time the grandchildren are adults, Mom and Dad's savvy investments are gone.