Oregon businesses threaten to sue state over coronavirus restrictions


A trio of Oregon businesses say they will sue the state if it does not pay up for costly closures related to COVID-19 restrictions issued by Gov. Kate Brown.

The three businesses, North Bend Lanes, Blush Salon & Spa, and the Wilsonville Family Fun Center, are represented by John DiLorenzo of the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm, who argued in a letter sent Friday that Brown’s orders basically amounted to property damage.

“What’s happened here is the governor has basically destroyed property for the purpose of furthering the policy behind the executive order,” DiLorenzo said. “Property doesn’t have to be tangible.”

“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,” DiLorenzo said.

On March 23, Brown issued a “stay-at-home” order temporarily closing a number of service industry businesses deemed non-essential such as amusement parks, gyms, spas, malls, theaters, tattoo parlors and yoga studios. That order was lifted on May 15.

Since then, Brown’s orders have allowed non-essential services to undergo phases of reopening under the condition they enforce social distancing, limit maximum capacity, cut service hours, and require customers and workers to wear face masks indoors.

Following a series of serious COVID-19 outbreaks in northeastern Oregon over the summer, Brown rolled back several counties’ phases of reopening, including Morrow and Umatilla Counties.

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, accused Brown of applying “arbitrary, at times contradictory, standards” for Oregonian businesses and communities during the pandemic.

“The governor has exercised her authority without moderation or consideration,” Drazan wrote. “While the governor has the authority to protect public health, Oregonians have the right to demand equal treatment and compensation for their losses. Oregonians do not owe the governor their livelihoods, as she continues to move the goalposts in the fight against COVID-19. It’s past time for accountability.”

Brown’s office did not comment on the potential litigation.

DiLorenzo recently won a $1.1 billion settlement against the state last year on behalf of 13 Oregon counties for breaching the terms of its logging contracts. The case is still being appealed by the state.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a variety of lawsuits related to state policy addressing financial hardship brought on by the recession this year.

Those lawsuits include one field by a group of Oregon banks fighting back against the state’s eviction moratorium.

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