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COVID orders subject of Michigan Supreme Court argument

Michigan Hall of Justice
Rick Pluta
Michigan Hall of Justice

The Michigan Supreme Court holds its first oral arguments of 2024 on Wednesday. One set of cases addresses whether businesses are owed money for state government-ordered shutdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 emergency.

It has been more than two years since COVID restrictions on businesses expired, but some businesses are still looking for payback from the state, arguing the orders robbed them of earnings. Shutdown orders and restrictions were imposed on businesses including bars, restaurants, banquet halls and gyms.

The question is whether the COVID orders constituted “takings.” That is a legal term for when a government action unjustly seizes or reduces the value of an asset without compensating the owners.

The plaintiffs – a bowling alley, a fitness center company and a catering business-- say COVID restrictions issued early in the pandemic cost them money and for that they deserve compensation. The state argues that the COVID pandemic required dramatic steps to address a public health emergency, but the measures were applied equally across the board.

The state’s position prevailed in two Michigan Court of Appeals decisions. The Supreme Court ordered the arguments in both cases to be heard on the same day. The stakes are high because the plaintiffs say, if they prevail, all businesses like theirs should also be entitled to compensation from the state.

There is no pressing deadline for the Supreme Court to rule, but it will likely take months for the justices to decide the cases.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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