Perspectives

Sometimes all you need to navigate the legal landscape is a little information. Our blogs and articles touch on a wide spectrum of legal matters that can pop up in both business and everyday life, and we hope they’ll shed a little light wherever you happen to need it.

5 New MN State Laws We Think You Should Know About

Unless you spend your day refreshing the Minnesota State Legislation website, you may have missed some of the new laws that have been passed so far in 2021. Don’t worry, it’s our job to pay attention- and we are happy to report back to you!

 

  1. Insurers Cannot Discriminate Against Those with Prescriptions that Interfere with Opiates

Prescription for opiate antagonist: When determining whether to issue, renew, cancel, or modify a policy of life insurance, an insurer may not make an underwriting determination based solely on information revealing that a proposed insured has a prescription for an opiate antagonist.

 

2.  Statutory Deadlines Suspended During Peacetime Emergency

An act relating to civil actions; suspending the expiring of statutory deadlines imposed upon judicial proceedings during a peacetime emergency; Deadlines governing proceedings in district and appellate courts suspended during peacetime emergency. Deadlines imposed by statues governing proceedings in the district and appellate courts, including any statute of limitations or other time periods prescribed by the statute shall not expire from the beginning of the peacetime emergency declared on March 13, 2020 in governor’s executive order 20-01 through April 15, 2021. Nothing in this statute prevents a court from holding a hearing, requiring and appearance, or issuing an order during the peacetime emergency if the judge determines that individual circumstances relevant to public safety, personal safety, or other emergency matters require action in a specific case. This section is effective the day following final enactment and applies to all deadlines that had not expired as of March 13, 2020 and that would have expired during the period starting March 13, 2020 and ending April 15, 2021.

 

3. Department of Corrections to Provide Resources to Those Recently Released

An act relating to corrections; requiring that certain information, assistance, services and medications be provided to inmates upon release from prison; providing identification cards for released inmates, requiring a homelessness mitigation plan and annual reporting on information related to homelessness.

“Beginning July 1, the Department of corrections will have to provide health and other information to people leaving the prison system. The idea is to help ease their re-entry into the community. People leaving prison must also receive a month’s supply of their medication and a prescription for two months of refills. The department must help them apply for MinnesotaCare or Medical assistance if the person wants it. The department must also provide a range of information such whether the person can vote and whether they owe court-ordered payments or fines.

 

4. Frontline Workers Who Contract Covid-19 Able to Claim Worker’s Compensation Through 2021

First responders, health care workers and child care providers who serve those groups will be able to claim worker’s compensation if they contract COVID-19 through 2021 thanks to an extension of the policy passed in April. It first took effect las year and established the presumption that the people on the front lines who developed a COVID infection were exposed to it in the workplace unless their employer could prove others.

 

5. New Law Sets Energy-Saving Goals

This law, three years in the making, “will strengthen Minnesota’s energy conservation programs, reduce greenhouse as emissions and create jobs across the state, “according to a May press release from the governor’s office. The law sets energy-saving goals and requires documentation of progress toward those goals. It took effect when Walz signed it May 25.

 

Want to see all the laws passed so far this year? Visit Minnesota State Legislation’s website to read the full list of statutes.

 

Have questions? Our attorneys are always available to work with you on your legal needs.

What You Need To Know: MN’s Emergency Executive Order for Commercial Collections

On May 4th, 2020, an Emergency Executive Order was signed into effect, placing suspensions on a number of collection activities related consumer debtors. The Order suspended “service of a garnishment summons on a consumer debtor or consumer garnishee.”* The order also suspended obtaining “information about a consumer debtor’s assets, liabilities, and personal earnings.”

On January 7th, 2021, Executive Order 21-02 amended Order 20-50 to add levies to the suspended activities as well. Up to that point, only garnishments and formal demands for disclosure of financial information had been suspended. The updates in Order 21-02 added a significant limitation on the suspension of garnishments and levies by adding language limiting the suspension of judgments entered on or after May 4th, 2020 and language allowing for wage garnishments and levies on judgments entered prior to May 4th, 2020. Previously, the suspension was on all judgments old and new.

On May 6th, 2021, the MN Governor issued Executive Order 21-21. This order provides a “sunset” provision on Orders 20-50 and 21-02. Movement on this Order relies on the determination by the Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Health to confirm that seventy percent (70%) of people sixteen years of age and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Effective two business days after that confirmation, or on Wednesday, June 30th, 2021 at 11:59 pm, whichever occurs first, Executive Orders 20-50 and 21-02 (as well as others) will be rescinded. Meaning, on July 1, 2021, or perhaps earlier, the suspension of garnishments, levies and demands for disclosure related to consumer debtors will no longer be in effect.

If you have questions about whether you may be effected by any of these changes, please reach out to one of our Commercial Collections attorneys.

 

*”for the purpose of this Executive Order, the terms ‘consumer debt’ and ‘consumer garnishee’ have the definition of ‘debtor’ and ‘garnishee’ as used in Minnesota Statutes section 571-712, subdivision 2(b) 2(c), when applied to debtors and garnishees who are natural persons and whose debt originated from the purchase of goods or services purchased primarily for a personal, family, or household purpose, and not for a commercial, agricultural, or business purpose.

Executive Order 20-50

Executive Order 21-02

Executive Order 21-21

Boating Under the Influence – What You Should Know

We all know drunk driving has become a major problem throughout the United States but what about drunk boating? With our bright sunny days and beautiful lakes, boats are an attractive place to spend many days in the summer in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Most states, like Minnesota and Wisconsin, have boating laws but just how big is the problem? According to The U.S. Coast Guard 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics released June 2, 2020, there were 633 boating fatalities nationwide in 2018, with alcohol leading the known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 100 deaths or 19% of fatalities.

These laws are enforced but citations can be avoided if you have the right information. Please see below for a list of most commonly asked questions about boating under the influence.

1. Can I have alcohol on my boat?
Yes, open container laws do not apply to boats, meaning you are able to have an open container of alcohol on it. You are also able to openly consume it, as long as you are 21 or older.

2. Do Police enforce laws against boat operators drinking? If so, how?
Police do enforce these laws. These laws are most commonly enforced by safety checkpoints. Like roadside DWI checkpoints, police are able to set up BWI checkpoints as well. Law enforcement can stop, inspect, and test boaters for sobriety in the same manner they do in roadside checks on state highways. Those often include preliminary breath and field sobriety tests. Some states do not even require probable cause to do so.

3. What are the consequences?
The consequences of a BWI are like those of a DWI. Along with likely losing your boating license, you could also have a criminal record, lose your driver’s license, and pay hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines to the court if convicted. These convictions can further affect your boat and car insurance rates, making you a more high risk driver if you are charged or convicted of a crime involving alcohol. If you are a commercial driver, the consequences could be devastating.

4. How can I avoid these charges?
First and foremost, avoid alcohol while operating your boat. You can further avoid these charges by knowing the areas boating laws, making sure everyone on your boat wear their life vests while following other safety rules, and by taking courses on safe boating.

If you have specific questions or wish to speak to an attorney regarding your case or any of the information above, please reach out to one of our experienced attorneys for a free case analysis.

Posted by WFJ | July 15, 2020

DO YOU HAVE CUSTODY RIGHTS? A FATHER’S GUIDE TO CUSTODY AND PARENTING TIME

Most people may be surprised to learn that a father has no legal rights to custody or parenting time with his child if he was not married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth. In Minnesota, if a child is born to an unwed mother, the mother is the sole legal and physical custodian of the child. A father has to bring a legal action to obtain rights to custody and parenting time, even in cases where paternity is uncontested.

At the hospital, many unwed fathers sign a Recognition of Parentage (ROP) form along with the Birth Certificate. The ROP is different than an application for a birth certificate. The form must be completed by both parties and signed in the presence of a notary public. Then the form is filed with the Minnesota Department of Health. The legal effect of the form is to provide the father with a paternity presumption determination akin to that of a judgment or court order. If the ROP is on file with the state, the father may commence an action to determine legal custody, physical custody, and parenting time with the minor child or children. If a ROP has not been signed and filed with the state, then the father must first bring a paternity action to declare the existence of a parent-child relationship before any rights of custody or parenting time can be determined.

If a father is named on the child’s birth certificate but a Recognition of Parentage has not been completed by the parties, the birth certificate provides the father with a presumption of paternity but is not legally conclusive, nor legally binding like a ROP.

To put it another way, if a father does not sign the birth certificate, the mother or the County may file a paternity action to determine if the father is the biological father and therefore responsible to pay child support.  If a father signed the birth certificate and ROP, then the mother or County can merely apply for child support and begin those proceedings.  However, just because a father is responsible to pay child support does not mean that he has a right to custody or parenting time.  The only way for an unmarried father to gain custody and parenting time rights is to file for a Petition to Establish Custody and Parenting Time (or Paternity action if you are not on the ROP).  If the mother agrees that the father should have custody and parenting time, there is a Joint Petition to Establish Custody and Parenting Time that the parties can file with the Court.  If the mother does not agree, then the father can file a Petition with the Court and begin proceedings to establish custody.

If you’re a father struggling to obtain rights to your child, please do not hesitate to call one of our experienced attorneys to help you through the process.

Posted July 9, 2020

Common Myths about the Security Deposit

Security Deposits in the residential setting are often misunderstood. Tenants sometimes leave before the lease term is up, pinning the landlord with unpaid bills and property damage. On the other hand, landlords sometimes incorrectly use the deposit to improve or upgrade their property.

In Minnesota, statute 504B.178 contains the most guidance on the appropriate use of the deposit. It expressly states that a landlord may keep portions of the deposit to account for unpaid rent or fees. In addition, the legislature has adopted an “ordinary wear and tear” standard, which states that a landlord may use the deposit to repair any damage that is beyond such ordinary wear and tear. However, “ordinary wear and tear” has been ill-defined, and over the years has been open to interpretation. This has led to many myths and misconceptions. Here are some of the most common:

As a landlord, I can keep the tenant’s security deposit to update my property.
False. It is inappropriate to use a deposit to pay for anything other than repairs beyond ordinary wear and tear. A common example is replacement of flooring. The landlord may charge the tenant for damage that was directly caused by the tenant, such as pet damage or scratches. However, all flooring needs care or replacement from time to time. If the kitchen linoleum has simply seen too many years, the landlord must pay for the cost of replacement. Unless otherwise agreed to, updating or upgrading a property is always the responsibility of the landlord.

A landlord can’t use a security deposit to cover cleaning costs.
False. A landlord can use a deposit to cover the cost of cleaning an unusually dirty home. Most leases require the tenant to do a thorough cleaning prior to move-out. If the tenant fails to clean adequately, and the landlord is forced to arrange for cleaning, that cost may be deducted from the deposit.

A landlord can’t deduct utility bills from a tenant’s security deposit.
False. A landlord may deduct any unpaid bills, including rent, late fees, or key replacement fees, from the security deposit.

As a tenant, I can use my security deposit as my last month’s rent.
False. The purpose of the security deposit is to insure the landlord against property damage caused by the tenant. If the deposit is spent on the tenant’s last rental payment, there is often nothing left to cover the cost of repairs. Unless expressly written in the lease or otherwise agreed, a security deposit may not be used to pay the last month’s rent.

The security deposit is the only way the landlord get the tenant to pay for repairs.
False. If the deposit is inadequate to cover the cost of any repairs to the property, and if the damage was directly caused by the tenant, the landlord has a right to bill the tenant for the additional costs. If necessary, the landlord can sue the tenant in conciliation court to recover the costs of the repair.

It’s important to remember that whether the landlord intends to keep the deposit or not, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing or return the deposit within 21 days after the end of the tenancy.

Whether a landlord can keep a security deposit always depends on the individual circumstances. To learn more about how the law affects your unique situation, contact our team.

Written by WFJ | Posted April 2, 2020

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Small Business Reorganization Act – A Welcome Relief to Small Business Owners.

Small businesses are a pillar of the American economy. In 2005, Congress enacted Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act to allow small business owners easier options for reorganization.

After almost 15 years, Congress realized small business debtors were the least likely to have a successful reorganization while still having a high number of small business failures.

On August 23, 2019, Congress passed the Small Business Reorganization Act (SBRA). The SBRA is a Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy under the new subchapter, Subchapter V.

The SBRA has new requirements as to which individuals or entities will qualify under Subchapter V, as well as new procedures. These features were added to allow small business to avoid some of the burdensome costs and time typically associated with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The highlights of the SBRA are as follows:

  1. Debt limit has a baseline of total debt at $2,725,625;
  2. Elimination of the absolute-priority rule for creditors;
  3. Appointment of a trustee, similar to those appointed in Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 of the Bankruptcy Code; and
  4. Less strenuous disclosure statements and more debtor-friendly rules governing the plan requirements.

The complexity of filing bankruptcy for small businesses owners and small business debtors may be lessened by these new changes, the option to file under Subchapter V will keep many businesses operating.

The changes brought forth by the SBRA are exciting and a welcoming change to the law. There are many factors for small business owners to consider before filing of a reorganization bankruptcy. As always, it is best to consult with your LegalShield provider firm for a more detailed analysis.

Posted on April 14, 2020

The Importance of Living Will in Today’s New Circumstances

What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is an important health care document in estate planning as it provides clear and unambiguous directions of a person’s healthcare wishes at a time when they cannot speak for themselves. It avoids uncertainty at a time when emotions are naturally high and where family members may have conflicting wishes. It is not a Testamentary Will, as it does not dispose of property or make bequests under State law. The Living Will is both a statement of a person’s wishes and a guide for family and healthcare providers.

Details of a Living Will
The person for whom the Living Will is prepared is called the declarant. This document provides the declarant with the right to direct future medical services at a time when the declarant is unable to speak with or consult with their doctor. The document becomes effective only in an extreme end-of-life situation. In the Living Will the declarant may direct the attending physician not to administer life-sustaining treatment including CPR or technologically provided nutrition and hydration. If such treatment has already started the Living Will may provide that such treatment shall be withdrawn. The document may include a directive of do not resuscitate.

Both the declarant’s attending physician and a second physician must certify that the patient is terminally ill, permanently unconscious, and will not feel pain or discomfort from the withholding or withdrawal of such treatment. Even under this diagnosis it is the agent named by the declarant in the living will, termed the attorney in fact, who ensures that the patient’s wishes are carried out by the healthcare provider and attending physician. It is not healthcare professional who decides to withdraw or withhold treatment. State law typically requires that the attorney in fact be notified of the declarant’s condition. Thus it is important to keep this information updated. Without the Living Will the healthcare provider for the a patient in the extreme terminal condition cannot withdraw or withhold treatment at the request of the family including a spouse or adult child, even if the patient previously expressed this wish verbally.

The form and content of the Living Will must comply with the laws of the jurisdiction where the declarant resides. This often requires two adult witnesses or a notary to witness the signature of the declarant. The declarant must be legally competent to sign and, once signed, the Living Will should be given to both the declarant’s doctor as well as the attorney-in-fact including an alternate if so named. These standards vary by State to State. An attorney should be consulted to assure compliance with the rules of your jurisdiction.

The attorney-in-fact should be someone who knows what the declarant’s wishes, be willing to see that those wishes are carried out, and typically must be 18 years of age or older. This document may be amended or revoked by the declarant. Some states ask an applicant during the driver’s license application process if they have a Living Will. The applicant can request that their driver’s licenses indicate that such a document has been executed or signed.

Why Have a Living Will Now When You Are in Good Health?
Clients will often ask why a Living Will is necessary when they are in good health and do not have a family history of any serious illnesses or diseases. It is a document that, hopefully, is never needed but in the event that than an unexpected catastrophic medical situation occurs it can alleviate uncertainty, disagreements among loved ones and provide the patient’s wishes are followed. We have all heard about situations where family members cannot agree on the wishes of the patient, leading to legal action as the healthcare provider cannot and will not withhold or withdraw treatment if there is no Living Will.

Many people are concerned that it is the healthcare provider who makes the decision to withdraw or withhold treatment but this is not the case. The healthcare providers make the diagnosis and present it to the attorney-in-fact. It is the attorney-in-fact who instructs the healthcare providers, on behalf of the declarant, to withhold withdraw treatment

Some years ago a case in Florida made national news concerning a young married woman who had been in a coma for several years and whose doctors determined that she would not recover and would remain in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband attempted to have the doctors remove her from the respirator but her parents intervened and after protracted and expensive litigation the court determined that the respirator could be removed. She passed away 13 days later. A Living Will is a very personal and important document that can avoid years of uncertainty and conflict as to what a person’s medical wishes might be. It allows the individual to dictate what their treatment and healthcare would be in this very extreme medical situation.

If you have any questions or concerns about this paperwork please consult your attorney. In this time of widespread disease it is a crucial document that can easily be drafted to comply with State regulations, protect and ensure that an individual’s healthcare wishes are carried out, and provide family and friends with clear and unambiguous directions end-of-life situation.

Posted April 2020

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