Personal Injury

Meet Our Attorneys – Jon B. Allison and Austin LiPuma

April 21st, 2021 by

Meet Our Attorneys

The attorneys of Freking Myers & Reul are a cohesive team with decades of experience helping individuals with legal advice and representation.  Diligent, empathetic, passionate, approachable, are just a few words you could use to describe us.  We would like you to get to know more about us by following our series “Meet Our Attorneys” to learn about our professional achievements and experiences as well as our passions, hobbies, and interests outside the office.

 

Jon B. Allison

Jon practices in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of employment contract and non-competition. He is an experienced litigator who practices in federal and state trial and appellate courts and in federal and state agencies.
Jon grew up in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He attended the University of Michigan where he studied psychology and education. He earned his law degree from the University of Cincinnati where he served as Law Review Editor-in-Chief.
Jon lives in Mt. Lookout with his spouse, Deb (who works for the City of Cincinnati), and two children, Kate and Ben. He spends the vast majority of his free time with them focused on their various activities. His favorite thing to do is take long walks or hikes with his family. Jon also has a twin brother who lives and works in Cincinnati with his spouse and son.

 

Austin H. LiPumaAustin H. LiPuma

Austin LiPuma concentrates his practice in wrongful death, premises, nursing home neglect/abuse, and car/truck/pedestrian accident cases. Austin is licensed to practice law in Ohio, Indiana, as well as federal courts in both states. Austin was recognized as a 2021 Ohio Super Lawyer Rising – Plaintiff Personal Injury. He sits on the board of the Southwest Ohio Trial Lawyers Association and is an active member of The Ohio Association for Justice.
In his spare time, Austin is heavily involved with University of Cincinnati’s Mock Trial Association, which is ranked in the top 50 out of over 750 registered teams across the Nation. For the past eight years, Austin has been the head coach of The Bearcats where he teaches undergraduate students the fundamentals of effective trial work and advocacy.
As a Cleveland native, Austin grew up in an Italian American household where food and family were the primary focuses of his upbringing. As such, when he is not working or coaching, you can find Austin either watching a cooking show (usually ‘Chopped’), cooking, or most likely, doing both. Austin also enjoys staying as active as possible and although he admittedly has “zero form,” feverishly enjoys playing tennis whenever and wherever the weather permits.
More recently, Austin has been featured as a regular on WLW’s The Bill Cunningham Show as a legal expert focusing on personal injury-type cases. Make sure to tune in and listen for Austin’s advice there or check out his standing blog: Personal Injury Claims During a Pandemic and Beyond.

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Meet Our Attorneys – Mark W. Napier and Laura Welles Wilson

April 14th, 2021 by

Meet Our Attorneys

The attorneys of Freking Myers & Reul are a cohesive team with decades of experience helping individuals with legal advice and representation. Diligent, empathetic, passionate, approachable, are just a few words you could use to describe us. We would like you to get to know more about us by following our series “Meet Our Attorneys” to learn about our professional achievements and experiences as well as our passions, hobbies, and interests outside the office.

Mark W. Napier

Mark Napier concentrates his practice in wrongful death, nursing home abuse, and car/truck/pedestrian accident cases. Mark is licensed to practice law in Ohio, KY, and the local federal courts. Mark has been recognized as an Ohio Super Lawyer – Plaintiff Personal Injury for ten consecutive years. He has the highest attorney rating by Martindale-Hubbell for legal skills and ethics. He is a former President of the Southwest Ohio Trial Lawyers Association and a former Trustee of the Ohio Association for Justice. His is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for attorneys who have achieved million dollar recoveries.

In his community activities, Mark serves as a volunteer at St. Vincent DePaul’s Phone Center returning calls from neighbors who seek rent or utility financial assistance or other services. Mark is also a former Board President of the non-profit association IKRON, which provides services to the developmentally disabled.

In his spare time, Mark is part of the Black Widow Top Sportsman class drag racing team beginning in the spring 2021. The team will race its dragster at various drag racing tournaments in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Florida, and Texas.  Also, Mark is a part-owner of six thoroughbreds headquartered in Ocala, FL who have or will primarily race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida.  Mark’s wife of 40 years is Maureen Napier, and they have two children, Shannon, who is a MA degree social worker in Columbus, and Sean, who is a CPA in Boston, MA.

 

Laura Welles Wilson

Laura is an Attorney with Freking Myers & Reul, LLC in Cincinnati, Ohio, and concentrates her practice in Employment Law and Litigation. Laura received her A.B. in French Literature from Dartmouth College and her J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. Following graduation from law school, Laura began her legal career in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio as a law clerk to The Honorable Robert A. Steinberg, then a United States Magistrate Judge. Following Judge Steinberg’s retirement, Laura continued to serve the Court and served as a Career Law Clerk to Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hogan for fourteen years, until his retirement in 2010.

As a private practitioner, Laura has experience on both the defense and plaintiff’s side of employment litigation. Since entering private practice, Laura’s work has focused on a wide range of employment law matters, with special emphasis on litigation and motion practice. She has successfully briefed numerous cases, overcoming motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions filed against her clients, positioning the case for trial and/or settlement. Her accomplishments include successfully briefing and arguing employment discrimination claims before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and briefing before the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as work on numerous cases that have resulted in successful outcomes for firm clients at trial and through pre-trial settlements.

Laura is an active member of the Cincinnati Bar Association, serving as Chair of the Professionalism Committee, member of the Admissions Committee, and former member of the Nominating Committee. In addition, she is a member of NELA, OELA, and CELA, as well as the Ohio State Bar Association, the Ohio Women’s Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association, John Weld Peck Chapter.

Laura also volunteers in her community as a member of the Cincinnati Nature Center Board of Directors, former Board member and current member of the Nominating Committee for the Indian Hill Winter Club, and member of the Mariemont City Schools Finance Committee.

When she is not working on a legal brief, she enjoys a range of outdoor activities, including hiking, kayaking, orienteering and nature walks, which she pursues when travelling both near and far. She aspires to improve her skills on a mountain bike and loves to explore local craft beer options in any destination, especially if there is a side of live music.

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Personal Injury Claims During a Pandemic and Beyond: Snow & Ice; Nothing is Nice

February 17th, 2021 by

It was my second year of law school and I, admittedly, had waited to catch the bus until the absolute last second. As the clock ticked down, I bundled up as quickly as I could, grabbed my book-bag weighing approximately the size of an adolescent and sprinted for the door. No sooner had I ripped open the entrance door to my apartment complex when it happened.

I was suddenly airborne. It was one of those falls where you have sufficient time to contemplate all of life’s meaning while still afloat. I landed. Hard. My back was throbbing and yes, I missed the bus. Despite the nature of my profession, I try not to be too litigious but of course, my mind immediately thought do I have a claim?

As we continue to slog through the world nearly a year into a pandemic, winter decided to rear its ugly head in full force over the past week across the country. Many recent intakes I’ve fielded relate to my exact scenario: I slipped and fell on ice. What are my options?

Ohio’s Winter Rule:
The options for me in that moment and for many that experience this unfortunate event are limited. Ohio has adopted an austere, general rule often referred to as the “winter rule.” Effectively, this means that a property owner does not owe a duty to a person on its premises who slipped and fell due to the natural accumulation of ice. This is tethered to a larger, overarching rule of law called the “open and obvious” doctrine, which is in the name. Courts generally view it as a known risk to step outside in Ohio in the wintertime and potentially slip then fall.

With that said, like anything with the law, there is often an exception(s). This is true regarding an unnatural accumulation of snow and ice. For instance, a couple years back I had a client who slipped at an apartment complex similar to mine. However, in this instance, an improper drainage system caused an unnatural build up of ice to occur. Similarly, there have been scenarios where a property owner unreasonably clears snow in piles that cause an injury. While these cases are not always a dispositive avenue, they at least have a tenable theory of liability.

As always, the law is often applied based on the specific set of facts. It is always a best practice to at least determine if there’s a potential claim by calling in. Once I got back to the couch and had a few ibuprofen in me, the first call I made was to my boss, a personal injury attorney, at the time. Unfortunately, he broke the “winter rule” to me. As we continue to plow through this winter please stay safe, warm, and alert.

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“Super Six”: 6 FMR Attorneys Recognized by Ohio Super Lawyers 2021

December 15th, 2020 by

Congratulations to our “Super Six” Lawyers who were honored with recognition by Ohio Super Lawyers 2021: FMR Employment Law Attorneys Randy H. Freking, Kelly Mulloy Myers, Erin M. Heidrich and Elizabeth A. Newman, and FMR Personal Injury Attorneys Mark W. Napier and Austin LiPuma. These members of our firm have been recognized by Ohio Super Lawyers for 2021 as ranking among the top attorneys in Ohio.
Firm Partners Randy Freking and Kelly Myers have once again earned top honors with their inclusion on select lists of 2021 Ohio Super Lawyers. Randy has been named as a Top 50: 2021 Cincinnati Super Lawyer and Top 100: 2021 Ohio Super Lawyer. Kelly earned elite ranking as a member of the Top 25: 2021 Women Cincinnati Super Lawyers and as a Top 50: 2021 Women Ohio Super Lawyers. Mark Napier, a leader in our Personal Injury practice group, was likewise recognized as an Ohio Super Lawyer 2021.
Super Lawyers is a rating service that recognizes outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their state. No more than 5% of the lawyers in Ohio are selected for this distinction. The annual selection process to be named among Ohio’s Super Lawyers includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.
Employment Law Attorneys Erin Heidrich, whose practice includes a focus on School Law and Education, and Liza Newman were both named as 2021 Ohio Rising Stars. Also named as a 2021 Ohio Rising Star is Austin LiPuma, a member of our Personal Injury team. This distinction, reserved for lawyers who have been practicing for less than ten years, indicates recognition of their outstanding work based on both peer evaluation and independent research. No more than 2.5 percent of all lawyers in the state are named to the Ohio Rising Stars list.
FMR is extremely proud of these attorneys for this notable achievement. Through their dedication and commitment to serving as Advocates for Working People, Randy, Kelly, Mark, Erin, Liza, and Austin have earned the respect of their peers and the honor and distinction of being among the select few designated as Ohio 2021 Super Lawyers and 2021 Ohio Rising Stars.

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Personal Injury Claims During a Pandemic & Beyond: I contracted COVID-19 at work—do I have a personal injury claim?

September 2nd, 2020 by

Without exception, there is one question I’ve received more than any other in recent months: Do I have a personal injury claim against my employer if I get COVID-19 at work?

Short answer: No.

 

a. Personal Injury Claim

To explain why, it’s first important to understand the nature of the claim from the onset. Even prior to The Pandemic, a personal injury claim against an employer was a rarity. In Ohio, an employer is liable for an injury sustained at the workplace only when the employer acted “with the intent to injure another or with the belief that the injury was substantially certain to occur.” R.C. 2745.01. This exceedingly high bar requires an injured employee to prove the employer intentionally sought out to inflict harm or, as defined by the Ohio legislature, to act “with deliberate intent to cause an employee to suffer an injury, a disease, a condition, or death.” Id.  

A further reading of the law seems to provide an opening when an employer’s conduct is particularly egregious in flouting COVID-19 mandates. Specifically, an employer may be liable for injury when the employer removes “an equipment safety guard” or makes a “deliberate representation about a toxic or hazardous substance.” Id. At this stage, nearly six months into The Pandemic, most have heard some horrific anecdote about an employer’s bad behavior—from forcing employees to remove masks to intentional misinformation about its spread within the company and everything in-between. Do these type of scenarios open the door for liability? If an employee is forced to take down a glass barrier protecting her from an upper respiratory disease, should that not be considered removal of an equipment safety guard?

Again, the short answer is no. The Ohio Supreme Court has adopted a narrow interpretation in applying the above exception by limiting the term “safety guard” to “a device designed to shield the operator from exposure to injury by a dangerous aspect of the equipment.” See Hewitt v. LE. Myers Co. 2012-Ohio5317. As such, removing a glass barrier or any form of PPE from an employee unequivocally increases the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. However, it does not subject the employee to a dangerous component of a piece of equipment.

b. Workers’ Compensation Claim

Fine. With the prospect of a personal injury claim all but vitiated, what about workers’ compensation, where there is no such requirement of proving fault whatsoever? While not an emphatic “no”, it is highly unlikely as we head into fall, 2020.

As with COVID-19 itself, there are a myriad of moving parts involved. Prior to the flurry of proposed local, state, and federal emergency legislation, the answer was clear—workers’ compensation was an available avenue when an employee became disabled after contracting an occupational disease. See R.C. 4123.01(F). The legislature provided an exhaustive schedule of what an “occupational disease” is and is not under R.C. 4123.68. The list of diseases is effectively dispositive although some illnesses not expressly listed, like emphysema or chronic bronchitis, may be compensable if a causal link is established.

In one piece of emergency legislation, The Ohio House proposed adding COVID-19 as an occupational disease for frontline workers. See H.B. No. 606. Specifically, the amendment included “a presumption, which may be refuted by affirmative evidence, that COVID-19 was contracted in the course of and arising out of the employee’s employment.” Am.Sub.H.B.No.606 As Passed by the House. However, The State Senate omitted this amendment in passing its own version of the bill. Sub.H.B.No.606 As Passed by the Senate. While not yet signed into law, this version is silent on any available remedies for workers through workers’ compensation. The final version (proposed as temporary or uncodified law) is expected to be signed by The Governor in early September, 2020.

If we have learned one thing from this year, it’s just how much can change week-to-week, sometimes even day-to-day. Currently, limited recourse is available for a worker who contracts COVID-19 while on the job. This may seem appropriate when a worker successfully recovers and returns to the job within a reasonable timeframe. However, this will not always be the case. We are actively learning just how pernicious this disease may be for long-term health. What about future complications from COVID-19? Or those that suffer from a protracted illness with symptoms that persist much longer than two weeks? Is there an effective avenue of recovery? Unfortunately, as you’re likely expecting, the short answer is no.

 

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