General Legal Information

Tenants Have Security Deposit Rights

Q.: I have good reason to believe my landlord may improperly withhold my security deposit at the end of my lease.  Can I wait to pay my last month’s rent, and then pay up if my landlord comes through with the security deposit?

A.: You should always pay your last month’s rent, and don’t assume your security deposit will cover it.  For example, your landlord may charge you for extra cleaning that your deposit won’t cover.  If you don’t pay your last month’s rent, and your landlord tries to collect money (“damages”) from you for more than the amount of the security deposit, the law will not protect you, since all of your security deposit would be rightfully withheld by the landlord as rent.  If you do pay your last month’s rent, however, and can show your landlord improperly withheld your security deposit, a provision in Ohio law (Ohio Revised Code 5321.16) allows you to go to court to recover double damages and attorneys fees from your landlord.

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Save Taxes and Money, Too

Americans are always looking for new ways to save taxes.  Now there is another way to save taxes when you save money—Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).  With an HSA, you can save for medical emergencies on a tax-free basis.

Q.:  How can I qualify for an HSA?

A.: In order to qualify, you must be covered under a “high-deductible health plan” or “HDHP.”  An HDHP is a health insurance plan that has an annual deductible of at least $1,000 for an individual or $2,050 for a family.  Of course, you do not qualify if, in addition to the HDHP, you are covered under another health plan (such as Medicare).  Finally, you do not qualify if you are claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s income tax return.

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Rights Must Be Registered To Prevent Copyright Infringement

Q.: I know I automatically own the copyright to an original song as soon as I write one. So why should I register my rights to the song with the U.S. Copyright Office?

A.: You must register your rights before you can file a lawsuit against someone who has infringed your copyright. Registration will also help prove in court that you own the rights to the copyright if someone infringes it. You cannot get certain types of compensation in court unless your work was registered before the infringement occurred. A registration also notifies the world of your right to control what is done with your work.

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Resolving Disputes Without a Trial

Q.: What is ADR?

A.: Not all disputes can or should be resolved in court. The term “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) has been coined to describe a number of different processes disputants can use to resolve their disagreements without going through a trial. In a great many cases, these alternative processes are faster, more cost-effective and provide the disputing parties with more satisfaction than traditional litigation. The early use of ADR in various kinds of disputes has grown dramatically in recent years, even in cases where a lawsuit has already been filed, because of the growing recognition that up to 95 percent of all suits are going to be “settled out of court” anyway — too often after both sides have wasted time and expense preparing for a trial.

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Recognized Advance Directive Forms Simplify Health Care Planning

Q.: When I went into the hospital for surgery recently, I was asked if I had any "advance directives." What, exactly, are advance directives?

A.: Advance directives are written documents, signed by you, and properly witnessed or notarized, that communicate your health care instructions to doctors and others only when you cannot speak for yourself. Advance directives are set forth in a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will. An anatomical gift can be made as a part of these documents or such instructions can be set forth in a separate Organ and Tissue Donation form. Anatomical gifts can be registered with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Another type of advance directive, called a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order, is for use in limited situations and is completed by a doctor or other appropriate health care professional.

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Public Schools May Test Students for Drugs under Certain Circumstances

Q.:  Our public school tests students for drugs.  Isn’t this a violation of students’ constitutional rights?

A.: Under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, people, including public school students, are protected against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”  A drug test (usually done by obtaining a urine sample from a student), does qualify as a “search and seizure.”  However, depending upon the way in which it is done, the test may not be “unreasonable.”

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Public Records Are Not Always Accessible

Q.: What, exactly, is considered to be a "public" record in Ohio?

A.: A public record is just about any record kept by any branch of government within the state.

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Prompt Pay Law Makes Sure Ohio Health Insurance Companies Pay Up On Time

Q.: I’ve been hearing about the “prompt pay” law. What is it?

A.: The primary purpose of the prompt pay law, which became law in 2002, is to ensure that health care claims submitted by health care providers (such as doctors and hospitals) and beneficiaries (patients) are paid in a timely manner.

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Privacy Laws Govern Tape Recordings

Q.: I recently learned that one of my friends has been tape recording all of our telephone conversations without ever telling me. Is he allowed to do that?

A.: Yes. Ohio law allows telephone conversations to be tape recorded as long as one party to the conversation knows and consents to its being recorded. The law does not, however, allow your friend to use the tape recording for an improper purpose. For example, your friend could not use the tape recording to blackmail you, nor could he give the recording to your former spouse during a divorce proceeding. Also, your friend is not permitted to tape record a conversation between two other people without their permission.

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Police Must Give Miranda Warnings

People who watch police shows on television are familiar with the so-called "Miranda" warnings given to arrested suspects, but they may not realize that these warnings have not always been part of police practice. In 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court said, in essence, that, before interrogation can begin, a suspect must understand that he or she has certain constitutionally protected rights (listed below). This decision grew out of Miranda v. Arizona, a 1963 case challenging the conviction of Ernesto Miranda, who signed a confession following a two-hour interrogation without an attorney and without understanding his constitutional rights.

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