Oregon businesses threaten lawsuit over state's coronavirus response

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Three businesses are threatening a lawsuit against the state of Oregon over its coronavirus restrictions that they say have led to unemployment, The Oregonian reported Monday

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The letter was filed on behalf of a salon, a bowling alley and a family entertainment center, according to the outlet.

“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,” attorney John DiLorenzo wrote in a tort claim letter to the state on behalf of the businesses Friday.

Mike Johnston, a clerk at the Maupin Market in tiny Maupin, Ore., wipes down the ice cream case to protect customers from the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

Democratic Oregon Gov. Kate Brown initially implemented statewide stay-at-home orders in March and then a phased reopening plan in April, but she extended Oregon’s emergency declaration in July and again in September until Nov. 4.

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Oregon has recorded nearly 31,000 positive COVID-19 cases and 532 deaths. The state's positive cases spiked through July and have been steadily dropping since then, but hundreds of cases continue to pop up every day.

“The difficult work of controlling the statewide spread of this virus must continue, and must continue to evolve as we learn more and conditions change,” Brown’s latest executive order extending Oregon’s state of emergency states. “This emergency is not over, and neither is our emergency response.

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Brown’s office said Monday it doesn’t comment on pending or potential litigation.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown toured the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem Saturday afternoon, where she spoke with volunteers and evacuees. (AP September 12, 2020. Beth Nakamura/Staff)

DiLorenzo is arguing that a provision in Oregon law calls for the state to compensate businesses when the government seizes real or personal property during a state of emergency.

Brown’s closure orders implemented in March included amusement parks, gyms, spas, malls, theaters, tattoo parlors and yoga studios. Many restrictions against businesses were lifted in May.

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DiLorenzo said in an interview with the Oregonian that the state “destroyed the goodwill” of businesses for “a public purpose.”

“Here, the governor closed, shuttered the business and destroyed the goodwill,” DiLorenzo said in an interview. “The 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.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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