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Gyms, Fitness Centers Sue Michigan in Bid to Lift Stay-at-Home Order

— May 28, 2020

A coalition of gyms and fitness center owners are suing Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to end the state’s stay-at-home order.

According to, the lawsuit was filed Friday, May 22nd, in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. The lawsuit covers more than 120 independently owned gyms and fitness franchises across the state.

Attorneys for the gyms said that Gov. Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders, intended to curb the spread of novel coronavirus, violate entrepreneurs’ rights under the U.S. and Michigan State Constitution.

“The government’s impingement of constitutional rights must be narrowly tailored, and continuing to keep gyms completely shuttered is the exact opposite of that,” said attorney Scott M. Erskine, representing the League of Independent Fitness Facilities and Trainers (LIFT), alongside several gyms.

Michigan’s first stay-at-home order went into effect near the end of March, with an expiry in mid-April. The order has since been extended several times, with each iteration effecting considerable protest and controversy.

Erskine also said that Whitmer’s executive orders have ended and endangered lives. He suggested that that Whitmer’s plan for re-opening, which has allowed some critical and low-contact industries to operate or resume operations, is unfair.

Current Michigan Gov. and former Ford School faculty Gretchen Whitmer delivering a speech in 2015. Image via Flickr/user:FordSchool. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“If saving lives is the goal, then all lives should be considered,” Erskine said. “If reopening businesses safely is the goal, then all businesses—including gyms—should be afforded the same opportunity to do so.” notes that the coalition of gyms and fitness centers is also suing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon.

Erskine and other attorneys working on the suit say that Whitmer’s order should be voided, because it is intentionally vague and overshoots her gubernatorial powers. The gym owners hope that a court will invalidate many of the governor’s coronavirus-related executive orders.

LIFT, adds WZZM13, says it has sent Gov. Whitmer a series of letters explaining how gyms can safely be re-opened during the pandemic. Their suggestions include operating at limited capacity, asking patrons to self-screen for coronavirus symptoms, and enforced social distancing.

“Our clients, my clients are the experts, as to how to open a gym safely,” Erskine said, although he did not explain how or why gym owners are adequately prepared to curtail and control the spread of infectious disease.

The lawsuit, though, did offer something akin to an explanation, citing coronavirus’s case-fatality ratio.

“The [orders] are objectively unreasonable,” the lawsuit states. “There can be nothing more unreasonable than keeping 10 million people under house arrest because 0.38% of the population has contracted a disease that has killed less than 0.03% of the population.”

Erskine also pointed out that gyms and fitness centers enable Michiganders to mitigate the risk of contracting severe manifestations of coronavirus.

“There is no data or science supporting a decision to indefinitely shutter an entire industry—across the board—which is scientifically proven to help with obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, three comorbidities that overwhelmingly lead to complications in COVID-19 cases,” he said.

But, as LegalReader’s reported before, Whitmer has weathered other similar lawsuits, with one judge recently ruling that the governor does not need congressional approval to continue extending Michigan’s state of emergency.


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