Ohio Litigants Get Emergency Relief On Deadlines
Last week, the Ohio legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, House Bill 197, which included a sweeping array of new provisions in reaction to the COVID-19 emergency. Included among them are automatic extensions to statutes of limitation and other deadlines for state civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings. For all civil causes of action – personal injury, property damage, breach of contract, product liability, etc. — the statutory period of limitation for commencement of a claim is tolled (i.e., does not continue to run) during the period March 9, 2020 to July 30, 2020. Service deadlines and discovery deadlines are similarly tolled. Deadlines for indictments in criminal matters, preliminary hearings and criminal trials, juvenile matters, commitment hearings and the issuance of warrants are also postponed. Administrative proceedings are similarly affected. In broad language, the provision tolls “Any other criminal, civil, or administrative time limitation or deadline under the [Ohio] Revised Code.”
Attorneys across Ohio and elsewhere are working hard to keep their clients’ judicial and administrative proceedings moving during this unusual time of crisis. Among other tools available, they are relying on electronic and fax filing, remote depositions, and tele-mediations in order to keep the wheels turning. As the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. But physical access to courtrooms, clerk’s offices and other government facilities can create unexpected hurdles and opportunities for missteps around critical deadlines. This new emergency tolling provision will bring welcome relief on important deadlines that may fall right in the middle of this virus outbreak.
Clients with new claims and existing judicial and administrative actions need to maintain good communications with their attorneys during this period, notwithstanding this welcome relief.