Three business owners in Oregon are fed up with the COVID-19 restrictions devastating their businesses, and are now threatening to take legal action.
With COVID-19 still sweeping across the country, many business owners and people, in general, are growing weary with the restrictions many governors put in place six months ago to slow the spread. In Oregon, three business owners have even threatened to hit Governor Kate Brown with a class-action lawsuit over the restrictions that have devastated their businesses. According to an attorney representing the businesses, Oregon officials “should draft a plan to compensate small business owners for financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 restrictions.”
The three businesses include a Linn County salon, a Coos County bowling alley, and the Wilsonville Family Fun Center, also known as Bullwinkle’s. A tort claim letter written by attorney John DiLorenzo read:
“As a result of your orders, my clients and many other businesses like theirs closed as ordered and thousands of workers found themselves without employment.”
The letter was sent to Brown’s office. DiLorenzo is one of the most high-profile attorneys in the state. He has a history of successfully battling the “city of Portland over improper expenditures by the water and sewer bureaus and, most recently, scored a $1 billion jury verdict against the state for failing to maximize timber harvests.”
When commenting on the letter he recently sent to Governor Brown on behalf of the three business owners, DiLorenzo made clear he “isn’t challenging Brown’s authority.” Instead, he argued that a “related provision in state law calls for reasonable compensation when the government takes real or personal property during a declared emergency.” He claimed “that’s exactly what’s happened” to his clients. He further argued, “the state’s closures deprived businesses of goodwill or the intangible assets that come along with a business when it’s sold – such as a customer base or brand recognition.” In an interview about the matter, he added:
“Here, the governor closed, shuttered the business, and destroyed the goodwill. Goodwill is personal property. The goodwill was destroyed for a public purpose, the public purpose being to limit the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19. So no question it was a taking.”
Many of Brown’s COVID-related restrictions placed on businesses began being lifted back in May. However, many businesses like Bullwinkle’s still are not able to open to full capacity. According to DiLorenzo, Bullwinkle’s “had been partially open for businesses this summer but later closed…due to changes in occupancy regulations.” In his letter, DiLorenzo “invited the state to share any compensation plans for impacted businesses if you are of a mind to attempt to address this issue without resort to litigation.”