A proposed class action alleges Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis’s order forcing indoor malls and their interior retailers to remain closed while other retailers stay open is “patently discriminatory” and “blatantly unconstitutional.”
The 40-page lawsuit, which names as defendants Dr. Davis, Los Angeles County, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer and L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, alleges a September 2 pandemic-driven order has laid waste to interior malls’ and retailers’ businesses while depriving employees of their livelihoods.
The plaintiffs—Rivas Sports, a retailer at L.A. County’s Del Amo Fashion Center, its owner and Del Amo’s manager and owner—characterize the defendants’ actions with regard to keeping indoor retail stores closed as taken “under color of emergency powers but without any valid legal basis.”
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs amid the pandemic “responded quickly and decisively” to protect employees and customers, going “above and beyond State and local requirements” to fight the risk of coronavirus transmission at Pro Image Sports stores, which sell licensed sports merchandise at six L.A. County locations. The plaintiffs stress in the lawsuit that the 2.5 million-square-foot Del Amo Fashion Center has implemented “extensive measures” to combat the risk of COVID-19 transmission, dating back to before California’s re-closure of indoor malls on July 13 following weeks of open operation since May 29.
While the California Department of Public Health has allowed counties statewide to reopen indoor malls and shopping centers at 25 percent capacity and with restrictions rooted in protecting public health, Los Angeles County stands alone in keeping all indoor portions and operations of malls and shopping centers closed to consumers until further notice, the lawsuit relays.
Per the case, the September 2 order is “out of line with statewide standards, as well as standards established by state and local governments nationwide.”
“This stands in stark contrast to the County’s treatment of virtually every other retail establishment, including large and small scale retailers and even salons and barbershops—all of which were permitted to reopen immediately and operate at a [maximum] at 25% capacity (in accordance with state guidelines,” the complaint challenges.
The plaintiffs contend there is “absolutely no data to support the differential treatment between indoor malls and other large retail stores” that have been allowed to stay open for months, nor any information to back the differentiation of “outdoor” malls, which have also been allowed to operate for some time. According to the case, hundreds of businesses have been needlessly closed, with Rivas Sports forced to shutter six of its eight Pro Image Sports locations given their L.A. County addresses, greatly damaging sales and profits.
“Because of the September 2, 2020 order, hundreds of other businesses at Del Amo and other indoor malls and shopping centers in the County also remain closed to the public,” the lawsuit says, “depriving them of badly needed revenue and thousands of employees of gainful employment—all without any justification whatsoever or means to challenge the government’s overreaching and arbitrary action.”
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.