As businesses reemerge from state-mandated closures, their focus is shifting from navigating workforce issues and federal relief programs to returning as quickly as possible to pre-epidemic levels of operations. Some businesses, viewing Ohio’s operating restrictions as overreaching, are challenging those restrictions in court.
Eight restaurants in Lake, Cuyahoga and Franklin Counties filed a lawsuit on June 4, 2020 in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas against the Director of the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Governor Michael DeWine seeking injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the orders regulating restaurants and bars due to the COVID-19 pandemic are unconstitutionally vague and impose unconstitutional strict criminal penalties.
The Complaint alleges that each of the eight plaintiff-restaurants received a written or verbal warning or appreciate a “threat” of strict criminal liability by their local governmental authorities that they are in non-compliance with an Order issued by the Ohio Department of Health. The “threat” described in the Complaint includes criminal penalties, and seizure of the plaintiffs’ liquor licenses. The Plaintiff-Restaurants argue that these actions would be unconstitutional or unauthorized because either (1) the General Assembly’s delegation of authorization to the Ohio Department of Health (ORC 3701.13) is too broad or vague; or (2) the Ohio Department of Health’s exercise of the delegated authority is too broad.
The Plaintiff-Restaurants do not seek monetary damages other than costs and fees (including attorneys’ fees) incurred as a result of the claimed unconstitutional orders. The Five-Count Complaint is pending before Judge John P. O’Donnell. A complete copy of the Complaint can be found here.
If you have questions about the impact of coronavirus-related government orders on your business, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Frantz Ward Litigation Group.
Frantz Ward's Coronavirus Response Team assists clients in navigating the multitude of issues presented by the current crisis. For assistance in addressing these issues or in developing other strategies to protect your business, please contact Frantz Ward Partners Brian Kelly or Christopher Koehler and they will engage the appropriate members of the response team. In addition, please visit the Frantz Ward Coronavirus Daily Update/Resource Center for up-to-date information and links.