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If the recent shutdowns seriously impacted your business, the government may owe you money -- this company wants to help

Did your business have to close due to COVID-19?
Did your business have to close due to COVID-19? (Tim Mossholder/Pexels stock image)

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Yes, you read this headline accurately: If the recent, COVID-19-related, government-mandated shutdowns seriously impacted your company or business, you may be entitled to compensation from the government.

Want to learn why, and take some steps toward possibly receiving some of that compensation?

Let’s dive in.

The experts at Bogin, Munns & Munns, a full-service law firm founded 40 years ago in Orlando, said they absolutely acknowledge, honor and respect the police powers and regulatory authority of our government, when properly applied.

“However, the recent shelter-at-home orders issued by state and local governments decimated (many) businesses, several of which are now struggling to stay afloat,” law firm leaders said. “Inordinate burdens were placed on these businesses. In some instances, the government’s actions amount to what is commonly referred to as a ‘taking.‘”

More on that ‘taking’ concept

Are you familiar with the term “inverse condemnation?”

It’s a type of government “taking” of property -- and it occurs without using the power of eminent domain.

In your typical government taking legal action, the government files a lawsuit against you, a person such as a property owner. But this isn’t quite that.

Bogin, Munns & Munns plans to pursue lawsuits described as “inverse condemnation” because the lawsuit will be initiated by you against the government; not the other way around.

The legal team wants to stand with community business owners and help them take a proactive approach, in order for these companies to obtain fair compensation.

An example involving citrus trees

Do you understand the concept of that last term -- “inverse condemnation?”

Perhaps an example would make it easier to understand.

Let’s consider the case of the Florida Department of Agriculture v. Mendez.

We’ll tell you why this matters: If you’re saying to yourself, “Wait a second. Isn’t the government authorized to issue shelter-at-home orders without liability?” (Under a theory called “sovereign immunity”), then this will all come full circle in a minute.

We’ll start with citrus trees. In a case in Mendez, homeowners filed an inverse condemnation suit against the Department of Agriculture.

These homeowners’ healthy citrus trees had been destroyed by the Department of Agriculture, they said, in a government effort to contain a citrus-killing virus called “canker.”

The Mendez Court explained: “Only where the property is imminently dangerous may the state take the property without compensation.”

The Court in Mendez added: “Only in the narrowest of circumstances is compensation not required when the state destroys private property … Thus, the presumption of mere ‘harm,’ as opposed to imminent dangerousness, does not render the taking non-compensable.”

So, the Mendez Court clearly explained that the government’s taking of uninfected trees, even as a precautionary action to control the spread of the canker virus, was a compensable taking. (So people should get paid).

Relying on previously established precedent, the court provided some insight on its decision, confirming the healthy citrus trees were not “imminently dangerous.”

How do we apply this case to what’s happening, or what has already occurred, with local businesses and shutdowns? Here are some questions to consider, if you’re a business owner:

  1. When the shelter-at-home order was issued, did the government in any way take away your ability to access and run your business?
  2. Was your business “uninfected” like the uninfected citrus trees in Mendez?
  3. Was your business “healthy” like the healthy citrus trees in Mendez, and could you have kept it that way by applying appropriate safety measures?
  4. Was your healthy business an imminent danger to the public or did the government act on a “mere presumption of harm”?

The citrus example should make a lot more sense, now that you’ve thought about it in these terms.

Closures may have been premature or overly burdensome, law group says

“The shelter-at-home orders were issued at a time when, in some counties in Florida, very few COVID-19 cases had been reported, if any at all,” the team at Bogin, Munns & Munns said. “Did all businesses present an imminent danger?”

There are so many questions the experts brought up.

  • Could business owners have continued to operate in a manner consistent with the safety precautions and guidelines of health authorities?
  • Could businesses have implemented social distancing, the use of face masks, hand sanitation stations, etc.?
  • If a company were allowed to continue operating while applying these safety procedures, might there have been a less restrictive way?
  • Would your business be better off today if it were allowed to stay open?

“Many of our business clients complied with the broad sweeping shelter-at-home orders in an effort to again contribute to the overall safety and welfare of their communities,” the experts at Bogin, Munns & Munns said. “They did so when their businesses were not an imminent danger. Therefore, they are entitled to compensation for the government’s taking of their ability to run their business. It is our view that if these businesses are not compensated, they will be bearing an inordinate burden for an issue that needs to be resolved by the public at large.”

And there you have it.

These lawyers said they’re eager to help people recover what they’re entitled to, through an inverse condemnation action.

Do you have questions? Are you thinking about a case review? Contact the team for more.