• Joe McCoy

Do I have a case? That’s the question on many people’s minds when they reach out to me. And after they’ve told their story, that’s the question that many end up asking: Do I have a case?

To answer that question, I use an analogy: the three-legged stool. This evaluation process isn’t unique to me. Many personal injury lawyers do the same thing. It works.

What are the three legs of the stool?

1. Liability;

2. Damages; and

3. Collectability.

Have you ever tried to sit on a stool with one or two legs missing? How did that go for you? Well, the same thing happens with your case. We need all three legs of the stool for your case to stand up in court. Let’s look at each leg in a bit more detail:

1. Liability. This means somebody did something wrong. They needlessly endangered someone else’s safety. This could be a person that rear-ends you when you’re stopped in traffic, a company that puts a dangerous drug on the market; or a doctor that cuts the wrong cord. Sometimes liability is easy to establish; other times it’s extremely challenging.

2. Damages. This means that you experienced or are experiencing harms and losses. What are those harms and losses? Are you paralyzed? Or did you go to physical therapy for several months to regain your strength and get rid of the pain? Did you fracture your kneecap? Need surgery? Or did you hurt your head and are now having trouble with your memory?

3. Collectability. Is there a source of monetary recovery? Hundreds of years ago, our law was limited to an eye for an eye. If someone else broke your leg, justice required another broken leg in retribution. That’s changed now. And we’re also not talking about sending the wrongdoer to jail—that’s for the criminal justice side. We’re talking about America’s civil justice system. And money is the only compensation for a person harmed by someone else needlessly endangering safety. But is there money at the end of the case? An insurance policy or two, a wealthy individual or company, the government?

Sometimes it’s easy to evaluate the three legs of the stool. But other situations require extensive investigation, research, and creativity. For example, what rules apply to the doctor performing the operation? Are there special rules that apply to the semi-truck driver involved in the accident? And for collectability, every insurance policy contains a contract: what are the details of that contract? Is this an underinsured or uninsured case? What are the policy limits? Has the insurance company evaluated the situation in good faith? And by the way, what is the monetary value of pain for 5 months? What about for 2 years? Or forever? What’s the value of not being able to walk again, not being able to hold your child or grandchild again, or the loss of a loved one?

If you have questions about the three legs of your stool, give me a call. I want to hear your story and help build your case—one stool leg at a time.

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  • Joe McCoy

The COVID-19 shutdown. This phrase triggers so many different emotions in different people—and many people hold conflicting emotions within themselves. Fear of the virus; frustration at perceived overreactions and government overreach; increased concern for elderly or vulnerable loved ones.

It’s commonly accepted that we as a people are as politically divided as we’ve ever been. Our response to the current pandemic has not lessened that divide. But through all the chaos, the turmoil, and upheaval, what can we agree on? Sometimes when things are bleakest, or most frustrating, that condition causes our values to come into focus.

So what do we value? I’m especially interested in our shared values. What do the divisive responses show about what we value as people, generally? And can we find common ground about those values? I see two values that permeate the conflicting emotions sparked by the pandemic:

1. Health; and

2. Work.

People on different sides of the divided response to the pandemic may feel health or work overly threatened by the response to COVID-19. Or perhaps different people associate a different risk level to health or work with COVID-19 and the response. But I’m hopeful that we can all agree that both health and work are important—that these are things we value. So what can we takeaway from COVID-19, the response to COVID-19, and our values of health and work?

Our current situation will pass. Whether it’s through a vaccine, natural passage of time, or simply living with the threat of a new virus, we will not remain on lockdown. But can we meaningfully examine our recognized values, and use this examination and recognition to live a more fulfilling, thoughtful, and enjoyable life in the future?

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  • Joe McCoy

Many step-parents have filled the role of mom or dad to step-children for years. By proceeding with a step-parent adoption, the law provides legal recognition to a relationship that already exists. But when is a step parent adoption appropriate? This guide provides some pointers.

  • When is a biological parent's consent not required?

Normally, a biological parent must consent to the adoption of his or her child. But there are some exceptions to the consent requirement. Here are two that are commonly used: (1) If a biological parent has failed, without justifiable cause, to have more than a minimal amount of contact / communication with the child for over one year before the adoption petition is filed, that biological parent's consent is not required for the adoption to proceed; (2) If a biological parent has failed, without justifiable cause, to provide for the maintenance and support of the child as required by law or judicial decree during the one year before the petition was filed, the biological parent's consent is not required.

  • What does "without justifiable cause" mean?

In both situations discussed above (when a biological parent's consent is not required), the biological parent's failure must be "without justifiable cause." One of the issues the Judge examines is whether the biological parent was prevented by the custodial parent from visiting with the child, or whether some valid reason exists for the failure to help the child with living expenses, child support, etc. If the Judge is not convinced that the biological parent's failure was without justifiable cause, the Judge will dismiss the adoption petition.

  • What is the timing of a step-parent petitioning to adopt his or her step-child?

In Ohio, a step-parent must have been married to the child's biological parent for at least 6 months, and some counties require marriage for one year before granting an adoption petition. The court must determine that the consent of the other biological parent (other than the one married to the step-parent) is not required. (See discussion regarding when a biological parent's consent is not required).

  • Best interest of child

After determining that all necessary consents have been provided or are not required, the Court must determine whether the adoption is in the step-child's best interest. The Ohio Revised Code lists factors for the Court to consider in making the best interest determination, but generally, the Court is looking at the child's current living arrangements, the bonding between the child and the step-parent, and the child's wishes (if the child is old enough for this to be a factor). If the child is 12 or older, the child's consent to the proposed step-parent adoption is required.

If you are interested in learning more about the adoption process, please contact me today.

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