Eighth Circuit ruling could be ‘game changer’ for COVID lawsuits against Walz

One lawyer says this reversal could be a "game changer" for other lawsuits seeking compensation for businesses shut down during the onset of the COVID pandemic.

Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a press conference during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Minnesota Governor's Office/YouTube)

The U.S. Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz over his 2020 executive order that mandated residential eviction moratoriums.

One lawyer says this reversal could be a “game changer” for other lawsuits seeking compensation for businesses shut down during the onset of the COVID pandemic.

On Tuesday, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals published a ruling that said Heights Apartments LLC, the plaintiff appellant, has “plausibly pleaded constitutional claims under the Contract Clause and Takings Clause,” overturning the U.S. District Court’s previous decision that their claims didn’t merit a lawsuit.

Heights Apartments — hereafter referred to as “Heights” — claimed Gov. Walz’s executive order issuing eviction moratoriums “effectuated physical takings” because it required Minnesota landlords to “accept the physical occupation of their property regardless of whether tenants provided compensation.”

The executive order’s protection also implicitly extended to tenants who breached the terms of their lease contracts. According to the court of appeals ruling, Heights accused a certain “non-paying tenant” of operating “a car and boat repair shop on its premises in violation of city ordinances.”

Furthermore, the landlords accused other non-paying tenants of allowing “unauthorized persons to live in the units, [throwing] raucous parties, and [engaging] in other behavior such that rent-paying tenants in adjacent units moved to evade the nuisance.” Thus Heights argued Gov. Walz’s executive order interfered with their ability to lawfully enforce the terms of their contracts.

“We reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the court of appeals said in its ruling.

On Wednesday, attorney James Dickey of the Upper Midwest Law Center wrote a letter to the court of appeals about the case of Glow in One Mini Golf v. Walz, in which the plaintiffs also argue that Gov. Walz is “required to compensate businesses for shutting them down.”

Dickey told Alpha News that since the district court dismissed the “business part” of the case “for the same reason that it dismissed Heights Apartments v. Walz,” he is confident that the court of appeals’ overrule is a “game changer” for his client Glow in One Mini Golf, as well as any other businesses suing Gov. Walz for similar reasons.