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Workers’ Compensation Claims and COVID-19

Can one of my employees file a workers’ compensation claim if they claim that they contracted coronavirus at work?

We get that question a lot. Yes, they can, but you should oppose any application for coverage if you receive one.

Generally, the claim will not be granted unless the employee has a job that poses a special hazard or risk of exposure to the virus and the employee can prove that he or she contracted the virus at work.

Under Ohio law, compensable occupational diseases are those diseases that arise from employment activity. Because coronavirus can be contracted in a variety of different ways outside the workplace, it is presumed that the illness was contracted outside of work. Thus, it is very difficult for an employee tie his or her illness to the workplace.

Some states, such as Minnesota and California, have created a rebuttable presumption in favor of first responders and healthcare workers. This presumption assumes that these workers contracted COVID-19 at work unless their employer can prove that they contracted it outside of work.

As of May 29, 2020, seven bills have been introduced in the Ohio General Assembly proposing some version of the rebuttable presumption in favor of first responders (police officers, firefighters and EMT’s), corrections officers, nursing home workers, healthcare workers, retail food establishment workers, food processing establishment workers. 

One bill, H.B. 573, seeks the presumption for any employee required by their employer to work outside of their home during the state-declared public health emergency. This is likely a bridge too far for the Ohio General Assembly.

The bill closest to becoming law is H.B. 606.  This bill passed the Ohio House on May 28, 2020 and will now move on to the Ohio Senate. H.B. 606 would create a rebuttable presumption that the following workers are eligible for workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19 between March 9, 2020 and December 31, 2020:

  • peace officers (police department employees, housing authority officers, state university law enforcement, public safety officers, ODNR law enforcement, and others);
  • firefighters (paid or volunteer);
  • emergency medical workers (paid or volunteer first responders, technicians and paramedics);
  • corrections officers (adult and juvenile);
  • employees of retail food establishments (any employer that uses its premises, in whole or in part, to store, process, prepare, manufacture, or otherwise hold or handle food for retail sale to the ultimate consumer – yes, this would include food trucks); and
  • employees of food processing establishments (any employer that that uses its premises, in whole or in part, to process, package, manufacture or otherwise hold or handle for distribution to another location or for sale at wholesale).

For additional information, please contact Adam D. Fuller, adfuller@bmdllc.com or 330.374.6737, or any member of the L+E Team at BMD.

Medicaid Announces Next Generation of Managed Care Organizations

For the first time since 2005, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (“ODM”) made significant changes to the structure of the Medicaid program by finalizing the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process. The Procurement process began in 2019 at the behest of Governor Mike DeWine who had a goal to make Medicaid managed care more focused on the health and well-being of individuals.

BMD Appellate Win Clarifies Waiver of Contractual Right to Arbitrate

Brennan, Manna & Diamond, LLC attorneys David M. Scott, Lucas K. Palmer, and Krista D. Warren prevailed before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit regarding if/when a party waives a contractual right to arbitrate. Borror Property Management, LLC v. Oro Karric North, LLC, No. 20-3146 (the “Decision”).

Relief for Ohio Under the Federal American Rescue Plan Act

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (the “Act”) — a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package — a significant portion of which will be directed to the State of Ohio to support economic recovery, as outlined below.

Cleveland Manufacturer Violated OFAC Sanctions By Allowing Shipments To Iran - Know Your Customer and Know Their Customer

UniControl, Inc., a Cleveland, Ohio manufacturer of process controls, airflow pressure switches, boiler controls and other instruments, agreed to pay the Office of Foreign Assets Control “OFAC,” the financial enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, $216,464 to settle its liabilities for violations of the Iran Sanctions Program. OFAC stated that “this enforcement action highlights the importance of identifying and assessing multiple warning signs that indicate a foreign trade partner may be re-exporting goods to a sanctioned jurisdiction.”

Ohio Breach of Contract Statute of Limitations Shortened to 6 Years

On March 16, 2021, Governor DeWine signed into law S.B. 13 which shortens Ohio’s statute of limitations for filing lawsuits based on breach of contract. A statute of limitation is the time period within which a party must file a lawsuit before its claim expires as a matter of law.