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Ohio and Michigan Extend Time for Certain Filings During the COVID-19 Crisis

Matthew D. Harper and Charles E. Sulek
3/27/20

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3/30/2020 UPDATE:  Following the enactment of H.B. 197, on March 27, 2020, the Ohio Supreme Court issued an Administrative Action which tolls certain time requirements imposed by “rules of the court,” including, for example, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, Ohio Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules of Practice of the Supreme Court of Ohio and the Ohio Rules of Evidence.  Specifically, the action tolls time requirements imposed by such rules which are “set to expire” between March 9, 2020, and the date on which the period of emergency ends or July 30, 2020, whichever is sooner. 

    Like H.B. 197, the action leaves the end date of the tolling period uncertain.  Note also that the tolling period only applies to time limitations which are set to expire during the tolling period.  A time limitation which will expire even one day after the period of the action ends will enjoy no tolling under the action.  Again, necessary filings should be monitored closely and made as soon as practicable.

    Two more caveats bear note.  One, notwithstanding the tolling provision included in the Ohio Supreme Court’s Action, Ohio courts “may still require filing in accordance with existing rules and issue orders setting a specific schedule in a case requiring parties to file documents by a specific due date if pertaining to a situation that requires immediate attention.” Two, “a specific order issued in a case on or after March 9, 2020, shall supersede the tolling provisions of this order, unless otherwise noted in that specific order.”  Litigants need to check recently issued scheduling orders closely to determine whether and how the action applies to such orders.

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court house columns  In light of the significant disruption caused by the COVID-19 (a.k.a. coronavirus) crisis, both Ohio and Michigan have taken steps to provide additional time to make certain required court filings which would otherwise be due during the crisis. Any party to litigation pending in Ohio or Michigan should evaluate the impact of these extensions on their particular case.

Ohio House Bill 197

   On March 27, 2020, the Ohio General Assembly enacted House Bill 197 (H.B. 197), Section 22 of which generally suspends the civil and administrative statutes of limitations, as well as other court time limitations and deadlines, that expired, or are set to expire, during the state of emergency declared in Ohio as a result of COVID-19.  Ohio’s state of emergency began on March 9, 2020, when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Executive Order 2020-01D. Since then, Ohio’s Director of Health also issued a “Stay at Home Order” requiring that numerous businesses close during the state of emergency.

   H.B. 197 tolls the statute of limitations for any “civil cause of action” (for example, claims for breach of contract, personal injury or property damage) and for any “administrative action or proceeding” that would otherwise expire between March 9, 2020, and the date the period of emergency ends or July 30, 2020, whichever is sooner.  H.B. 197 also tolls the time for:

  1. the time within which “a party must be served” in a lawsuit;
  2. the time within which “discovery or any aspect of discovery must be completed;” and
  3. “[a]ny other criminal, civil, or administrative time limitation or deadline under the Revised Code.”

  Anyone relying on H.B. 197 should note the expiration date ends on July 30, 2020 or the date the “period of emergency ends.”  No one should assume the tolling period will last until July 30, 2020, and should make necessary filings or take necessary actions as soon as practicable.

Michigan Administrative Order 2020-4

   Similar steps have been taken in Michigan. On March 24, 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-21, suspending all activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Then, on March 26, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-4 (AO 2020-4), which tolled “[t]he deadlines for all filings, jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional, in the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals” from March 24, 2020, until the expiration of the Governor’s order. The Supreme Court’s AO 2020-4 also “gives filers the same number of days to submit their filings after the [governor’s order] expires as they had before the suspension went into effect.”  Although not as broad as H.B. 197, any Michigan litigant should evaluate AO 2020-4’s impact on his or her case.

   Anyone with pending or potential litigation should consult with their legal counsel on the impact of H.B. 197 and AO 2020-4 on any filings past due, now due or soon to become due.  Given the uncertainty of when the period of emergency will end, all such deadlines need to be monitored closely and should be met as soon as reasonably possible.  If you have questions about H.B. 197’s or AO 2020-4’s impact, please contact Mr. Harper or Mr. Sulek.

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Disclaimers:

At the date of publication the above information was correct.  It is quite possible the information above has changed as COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation. 

The article in this publication has been prepared by Eastman & Smith Ltd. for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney/client relationship.