A local attorney’s fight to see a Rutland gym owner compensated by the state for the COVID-related closure of his business argues that the court should not let a fear that other Vermont businesses could seek similar relief cloud its judgment.
“This court is likely concerned that if it finds there is a compensable ‘taking’ in this case, then the floodgates will be opened for others to claim compensation, because the Governor’s order encompassed many hundreds of innocent Vermont businesses,” wrote Deborah Bucknam, an attorney from Walden, in a filing to Rutland Superior Court this week.
Bucknam’s latest filing in the case against her client Sean Manovill, owner of Club Fitness, is an opposition to the state’s motion to dismiss Manovill’s claim that the state should compensate his business because he was forced to close through Gov. Phil Scott’s executive order reacting to the pandemic.
On March 20, the Governor issued an emergency order closing down “gymnasiums, fitness centers and similar exercise facilities” as of March 23. Re-opening was not allowed until June 1.
Through Bucknam, Manovill claims the shutdown of his business by the government was a forced “taking” of his ability to use his property to operate his business. Governor Scott and Attorney General T.J. Donovan are named in the lawsuit.
In their motion to dismiss Manovill’s claims, assistant attorneys general Eleanor Spottswood and Rachel Smith refute there was any “taking” by the state.
“Defendants have failed to allege any taking resulting from the Governor’s Order—a generally applicable law aimed at protecting the public health and welfare is a proper exercise of the State’s police power and does not result in a governmental taking,” they wrote.
They further argued that Scott and Donovan cannot be sued because they have immunity within their roles in the actions that impacted Manovill’s business.