Legal-Ease: Sometimes the law is just plain unfair

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Sometimes the law is incredibly consistent, simple and easy to understand. Other times, especially in certain areas of law, the law consists of multiple sets of rules piled on top of each other with conflicts and inconsistencies which themselves are resolved by even more rules.

Some confusing, inconsistent, and outright contradictory laws deal specifically with citizens’ interactions with government authorities.

For example, several years ago I represented a farmer who thought he was bound by a government program that did not allow the farmer to commercially exploit his property. This was because the farmer thought he was enrolled in a government program that required him to keep the property in wildlife habitat.

Later, a government office contacted the farmer to say that the property was in fact not registered with this specific wildlife habitat program, so the farmer could in fact commercially exploit the property. The farmer then double-checked with several government offices who consistently, verbally and in writing, told him the same thing: that he could commercially farm the property.

Naturally, the farmer then cleared the trees and wild plants, installed drainage pipes and planted corn on the property. A month later, the government realized that the property was in fact registered with the wildlife habitat program which prevented the property from being exploited for commercial purposes. Despite repeated mistakes by many government departments, the farmer had to pay a heavy fine, mow the existing corn crop and plant trees at his own expense.

A similar, unfortunate circumstance arises in the context of applying for Medicaid to help pay for a nursing home or similar long-term care services. Medicaid rules sometimes penalize people for trying to do the right thing.

For example, if a person gives a gift to someone else during the five-year look-back period for Medicaid, the gift recipient can try to return the gift so that there is no penalty. for the donor applying for Medicaid. However, if the gift recipient returns only part of the gift to the Medicaid applicant, the returned gift amount does not help pay the penalty. Thus, the law makes it financially disadvantageous to try to help a family member in this setting if the full donation is not returned to the donor applying for Medicaid.

Also, almost everyone in our society complains about our tax system. Although hardly anyone agrees on the best solution, not everyone likes the inconsistency and sometimes clearly unfair results that our current tax system produces.

Outside of confusing laws when interacting with the government, the fact that winning parties in lawsuits almost never receive attorney fees makes the system inherently unfair. In addition to this, for example, if someone is injured in a car accident caused by someone else, that injured person may be reimbursed for lost wages, but work experience and chances of professional promotion are simply lost due to absolutely no fault of the injured person.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney with Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agricultural matters in Northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to be used as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based on the specific facts and circumstances facing you.

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