Experienced Lawyers helping Orlando’s Business Owners with Losses due to Mandatory Government shut-downs.
If the recent government-mandated shutdowns seriously impacted your business, you may be entitled to compensation from the government.
We 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 of our clients’ businesses, several of which are now struggling to stay afloat. Inordinate burdens were placed on these businesses. In some instances, the government’s actions amount to what is commonly referred to as a “taking”.
We will not stand by idly and watch our business clients struggle to regain their footing. At BMM we have stood shoulder to shoulder with small businesses for 40 years. We believe they are, in many respects, the backbone of our society and great contributors to our communities. Businesses, small and large, are also the backbone of our client base, and just like we have been here for you on your real estate, corporate and tax matters in the past, we are here to help you with this illegal taking or hindrance of your business. We’re in this together, and we are here to help you. If you have suffered a material loss to your business, please contact us for a free consultation.
We know times are tough and steep attorney fees just might not be in your budget at the moment. To show our dedication to our clients and their cause, we are committed to representing your interests in the most practical manner, including representation on a contingency/success fee basis, or other creative billing arrangements that suit your particular needs.
What is Inverse Condemnation?
Inverse condemnation is a type of government taking of property that occurs without using the power of eminent domain. In your typical government taking legal action, the government files a lawsuit against you, the property owner. The lawsuits we are pursuing are described as “inverse condemnation” because the lawsuit is initiated by you against the government, not vice versa. We stand with you in these efforts and are taking this proactive approach in order to help you obtain compensation for your damages.
Florida Department of Agriculture v. Mendez
You might ask, “Isn’t the government authorized to issue shelter-at-home orders without liability under the theory of sovereign immunity?” Consider the case of Florida Dep’t of Agriculture and Consumer Services v. Mendez, 126 So. 3d 357 (Fla. 4th Dist. App. 2013)(“Mendez”). In Mendez, homeowners whose healthy citrus trees had been destroyed by the Department of Agriculture in an effort to contain a citrus-killing virus called “canker” filed an inverse condemnation suit against the Department of Agriculture. 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.”
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. Relying on previously established precedent, the Court provided this insight: “The burrowing nematode, which causes spreading decline, offers ‘no immediate menace to the trees in a neighboring grove’ and the healthy citrus trees were not ‘imminently dangerous’….” In application to your business:
- When the shelter-at-home order was issued, did the government in any way take away your ability to access and run your business?
- Was your business “uninfected” like the uninfected citrus trees in Mendez?
- Was your business “healthy” like the healthy citrus trees in Mendez, and could you have kept it that way by applying appropriate safety measures?
- Was your healthy business an imminent danger to the public or did the government act on a “mere presumption of harm”?
Closures May Have Been Premature or Overly Burdensome
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. We ask, did all businesses present an imminent danger?
What’s more, generally speaking, many cases indicate a government should deploy the least restrictive means when impairing fundamental rights. Could you have continued to operate your business in a manner consistent with the safety precautions and guidelines of health authorities? Could you have implemented social distancing, the use of facemasks, hand sanitation stations, etc.? If you were allowed to continue operating your business while applying these safety procedures, might that have been a less restrictive way for the government to regulate your fundamental rights? Would your business be better off today?
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. 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. We are eager to help you recover what you are entitled to through an inverse condemnation action.
What is the Bert J. Harris Act?
The Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act (F.S. 70.001; the “Act”) is a statute that focuses on protecting property owners’ rights to existing uses of their property. Under the Act a property owner may seek compensation when a new government regulation creates an “inordinate burden” on the property owner’s existing use. The full text of the statute can be found here:
As you can see, the statute is quite nuanced. If you don’t fully understand all of the details, don’t worry, we’re here to explain its application to your specific situation
What can you do now?
Contact us. We’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. We will take you through your options, whether it be inverse condemnation, a Harris Act claim, or some other strategy to help your business get back on its feet. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get back up.” We’re here to stand up with you and fight for the compensation you deserve.