There’s been a significant bump in lawsuits across several Southern U.S. states regarding mandated coronavirus restrictions, and so far, some have not fared well for those suing.
Here’s a roundup of some lawsuits over government-ordered mask mandates and bar and business closures in parts of the South.
Montgomery: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s attorneys asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a statewide order to wear face coverings in public places to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Retired sheriff’s deputies Larry Lewis and Barry Munza and real estate agent Debbie Mathis filed the lawsuit last week in Montgomery against Ivey, State Health Officer Scott Harris and the State Board of Health.
According to the suit, the mask mandate was illegally adopted and that plaintiffs face deprivation of liberty anytime they interact with others. The state argued Alabama has the authority under the Emergency Management Act.
Little Rock: Last month Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced a lawsuit against Jim Bakker, his mid-February show guest Sherrill Sellman and “The Jim Bakker Show.”
The news came after the disgraced Branson-area televangelist sued the state of Arkansas, the city of Los Angeles and two California counties over investigative demands by those jurisdictions related to Bakker’s on-air sales of a colloidal silver product that Bakker and Sellman claimed could “eliminate” coronaviruses from the human body “within 12 hours” during a broadcast four months ago.
Two drugs have been endorsed by scientists to treat the novel coronavirus: the anti-viral remdesivir and an inexpensive steroid, dexamethasone, announced by health authorities this summer.
Lafayette: Eleven bar owners filed a lawsuit in federal court in the city Wednesday against Gov. John Bel Edwards, arguing his COVID-19 rules limiting bars to takeout and delivery unlawfully target one business sector and impose overly harsh restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of Health says it has traced 464 confirmed coronavirus infections to 41 bars, among the largest number of cases tracked to a specific type of business, The Associated Press reported.
The Democratic governor and Fire Marshal Butch Browning, the chief enforcement officer of the virus regulations for Edwards, are named as defendants. It was filed by bars across Acadiana, including in New Iberia, Morgan City, Youngsville and Lafayette.
Bar owners argue Edwards cannot show a “real or substantial relation” between the closure of bars to on-site drinking and the public health crisis. The owners say a small number of known cases have been traced to bars and that none of the cases were tracked to their businesses.
The case is ongoing.
Hattiesburg: In May, the owners of a trampoline park filed a lawsuit against the city for not being allowed to open even though other facilities, such as restaurants and gyms, were able to relaunch their businesses at the time.
Ford and Taylor Ramey, who own the trampoline park, say the city’s decision to fetter the business is unconstitutional.
The business was open over the Memorial Day weekend, despite receiving citations for violating the mayor’s order — which is the same as Gov. Tate Reeves’ mandate that indoor entertainment and amusement venues remain closed.
In their lawsuit, the Rameys say their Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights, as well as their rights under the state’s constitution, were violated.
Knoxville: Two Knoxville plastic surgeons are suing the Knox County Board of Health, saying the board’s mask mandate put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 violates their rights under the state constitution.
Almost one-third of Knox County cases detected during the pandemic were identified in the past week — accounting for 1,018 of the county’s 3,533 cases. Twenty-two Knox County residents have died of COVID-19 in the past month, bringing the total number of deaths here to 27.
The lawsuit, filed in Chancery Court last week by Steven Smith and Jason Hall, alleges the board relied on “faulty and misleading data” by using false positive tests to arrive at the mask mandate.
The case is ongoing.
Memphis: A day after one federal judge denied a request by a group of restaurant and bar owners to issue a temporary restraining order against the Shelby County Health Department, a second judge has similarly ruled against the reopening of bars in Shelby County.
U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes Jr. ruled Thursday that restaurants with a limited service license must remain closed.
“The Court recognizes the many hardships imposed by Health Order No. 8,” Fowlkes wrote. “However, Defendants’ decision to temporarily close Plaintiffs is legally sound.”
This is the second blow this week to limited-service restaurants after owners of 17 such restaurants filed two separate federal lawsuits July 13 against the Shelby County Health Department and Shelby County government in an attempt to reopen and gain damages.
On July 16, 45 Memphis restaurants were forced to close following a directive by the Shelby County Health Department due to climbing COVID-19 cases in the county. These establishments, which the Health Department refers to as “bars,” are classified by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission as a “limited service” restaurant — a liquor license issued to restaurants whose gross revenue from the sale of prepared food is 50% or less.
Nashville: The Metro Nashville Beer Board is asking a federal judge to dismiss the board from a lawsuit filed by several Nashville honky-tonks against city and state leaders over COVID-19 restrictions.
In a filing submitted Tuesday, the beer board states that it cannot be sued according to the Metro Charter and that a federal judge’s recent denial of a restraining order against the beer board means that it no longer has to provide honky-tonks any relief.
The lawsuit, originally filed in mid-May, alleges that state and city officials are unfairly targeting restaurants and bars with mandated closures and restrictions meant to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Steve Smith, the owner of Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk & Steakhouse, joined The Local Spot and its owner, Geoffrey Reid, in the lawsuit in June. Since then, the plaintiffs have grown to include Harry O’s Steakhouse and Honky Tonk Central.
The beer board entered the ongoing fray in mid-June when it issued five-day beer permit suspensions against Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk & Steakhouse and three other downtown bars for failing to comply with orders banning bar service during the second phase of Nashville’s reopening.
The honky-tonks filed a request for a temporary restraining order July 6 that would have excluded the bars from July’s mandated closure and prevented the beer board from suspending their beer permits. The order also requested a stop to what bar owners said was “selective” enforcement: allowing protests to continue while shutting bars down.
A federal judge denied the request July 12, stating that the federal court would not supersede prosecution that was already pending — in this case, the beer board suspensions — between state and local officials and the plaintiffs.
Hattiesburg American reporter Lici Beveridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Based in Nashville, Natalie Neysa Alund is a breaking news and trending reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Tennessee. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.