A 2020 lawsuit against the governor’s COVID-19 shutdowns remains alive after the Minnesota Supreme Court sided with a restaurant owner.
Last month, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard Carvin Buzzell Jr.’s case and sent it back to a district court after determining that Ramsey County District Court and the Minnesota Court of Appeals were wrong in their dismissal of the case.
Buzzell owns two restaurants, Timber Valley Grille and the Rum River Barn and Vineyard in Milaca, that were forcibly shut down in 2020 by Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders.
Buzzell’s original 2020 lawsuit argued that the governor “commandeered” his properties when the orders took effect.
Timber Valley Grille lost 94% of its revenue, and the Rum River Barn had lost all revenue between when the orders went into effect and June of 2020, when Buzzell filed a lawsuit in district court, the Union-Times reported.
Now, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the district court must determine whether “the governor exercised exclusive control over or obtained exclusive possession of Buzzell’s properties such that the government could physically use them for an emergency purpose,” which the lower courts did not previously settle, according to court documents.
Under some state laws, the governor is authorized to “commandeer” citizens’ help, according to the opinion from the state Supreme Court, but only under specific circumstances.
The Minnesota Supreme Court concluded that the district court needs to look at whether the government took “physical control or possession of Buzzell’s property” and whether Buzzell “was prevented from exercising any control over or possession of his property.”
“This opens up a path for us for the first time to prove our case,” Buzzell told the Union-Times.
His attorneys called the development a “huge win.”
“The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ decisions against our clients and gave us the opportunity to show that Timber Valley Grille is entitled to just compensation from the State under Minnesota Law,” they said in a statement on Facebook.
Several restaurant owners have paid thousands of dollars in fines to the government for defying the shutdown orders of 2020-2021. A small cafe in Monticello was forced to pay its profits, from when it was open in defiance of the governor, to the state.
One restaurant owner was arrested and spent 90 days in jail for violating the executive orders.