How Do I Get More Time to File My Lawsuit?

Right now, talking to an attorney about your potential or current case may be the last thing on your mind. Everyone is more concerned about ensuring the health and safety of their friends and family, and figuring out what happens next.  Really, you could argue that is how people normally prioritize things in their lives.  While this is the case, something called the statute of limitations makes strict deadlines on when you can file a lawsuit against someone, or some company.  But now, Ohio, courts, and enforcement agencies are taking steps to make sure that no one loses their ability to seek justice.

Ohio Passes Law Pausing Deadlines

About a month ago, Ohio passed several laws, as amendments to H.B. 197, aimed at helping Ohioans during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Some of the key things it did included waiving the required one week waiting period to receive unemployment benefits, moving the deadline to file income taxes to July 15, 2020, and allowing recent nurse school grads to work under a temporary license before passing the NCLEX.  One thing that has not been mentioned much, is that the bill tolls the statute of limitations for criminal, civil, and administrative actions or proceedings.  

What’s “Tolling”?

You may be wondering what “tolling” is.  Tolling basically means that the statute of limitations is paused or frozen in place.  Think of it like putting something in the freezer so it lasts past the expiration date.  So, if the deadline to file a lawsuit was going to expire between March 9 and July 30, 2020, the bill freezes it so it doesn’t.  For example, if the deadline to file a lawsuit was March 11, 2020, you would have until August 1, 2020 to file it.  One important thing to note is that if the order expires BEFORE July 30, 2020, the tolling is based on the date the order expires. 

Why Does This Matter?

In Ohio, some causes of actions have really strict deadlines.  To file a claim for worker’s compensation retaliation for example, an employee has to give notice of the intent to file within 90 days of the illegal action.  The employee also has to file a lawsuit within 180 days of the illegal action. Discrimination claims investigated by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission must also be initiated within 180 days of the illegal act.  H.B. 197 helps to preserve those time limits for people who more than likely have other more pressing things to worry about.

How are the Courts Dealing with Coronavirus?

State and federal courts have not been immune to the effects of Covid-19.  Recently, the Potter Stewart Courthouse, a federal court in Cincinnati,Ohio, had to close because a security guard tested positive for Covid-19.  Despite this, a lot of courts have been able to move cases forward that are currently pending, or start working on newly filed ones.  A lot of courts are conducting hearings via phone or video conferencing, and most filings can still happen because of the existence of electronic filing.

What’s Going on With My EEOC Case?

After a lot of campaigning by workers’ rights groups, the EEOC has changed its policy when it comes to issuing notices of right to sue.  The right to sue is required to file some claims of discrimination in federal court.  However, once a right to sue is issued, you only have 90 days from the day you receive it to file your lawsuit.  Now, the EEOC is not issuing the right to sue notices unless they are specifically requested.  This allows people to choose a time to request the right to sue when their lives may not be as unpredictable as they are now.

What If I Don’t Know What to Do?

It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed right now.  These are unprecedented times for everyone, worldwide.  Putting more pressure on yourself by trying to figure out what law or statute of limitation applies to your situation will probably make things that much worse.  Attorneys like myself are already well-versed in the issues.  And we’re ready to give you one less thing to worry about.  If you or someone you know is in that situation, feel free to reach out to me so we can see what we can do.

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James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discriminationpersonal injury, and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.