Q: A municipality enacted more aggressive measures than the state in regards to their Covid-19 response, can they be sued?
A city and county forced all timeshares closed as part of their Covid-19 response. The state did not close timeshares via their directive. Our particular timeshare has each unit/week deeded and the owners pay their share of the relevant city/county taxes. The city and county have blocked owners access to their unit/week for the previous 7 weeks with an anticipated 4 weeks upcoming. There are 96 units in the timeshare times the 11 weeks equals 1,056 affected owner/weeks. The timeshare rents unused weeks for a minimum of $3,740 to a maximum of $4,250 per week, depending on the unit and week. Using the low rate of $3,740 times the 1,056 the potential damages are $3,949,440. Can the city/county be sued to make restitution to the blocked owners?
A: You have asked a very timely legal question the answer to which would require a very experienced lawyer many hours to research and write a real (confidential, personal and very valuable) in-depth legal opinion letter addressed only to you--not to anyone else.
An (attractive) alternative would be for you to spearhead an informal group of adversely affected OWNERS (not renters who could not occupy after paying rent) and take up a collection that could be used essentially for the same objective.
Finally, hiring a very experienced lawyer to opine on the merits, pros and cons involved in attempting such a difficult law suit has NOTHING to do with hiring a very experienced lawyer to actually bring the law suit. The answer to that question is completely dependent upon the outcome of the present question.
Charles M. Baron agrees with this answer
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A: I agree with Mr. Minnick. You'd have to seek a Court ruling that the municipality's action is not legally valid, and to do that, you would need to challenge the constitutionality of the action. There are various "levels of scrutiny" that the Courts use to determine if the action is violating a right (right to contract, right to travel, etc.), ranging from "Is it rationally related to a legitimate government interest?" to "Is it narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest?" This issue alone is complex and entails tedious research into published court decisions.
Assuming there is good case law to support an argument on that, the issue then becomes whether you would ALSO have a basis to seek money damages for the violation of your right(s), as opposed to only injunctive relief (a court order halting the action). Local governments and their officials enjoy a high level of immunity from suits for money damages, yet another area of research.
Once the research is completed, an attorney can determine whether there are good odds of obtaining an attorney's fee award from the Court under 42 U.S. Code Section 1988, which could enable the attorney to determine if he/she can offer some kind of fee arrangement that won't cost the client(s) a fortune. My educated guess (but JUST a guess) is that, on your issue, at BEST, your side would have an argument to make, but the government would too, with the result being that this WOULD cost a fortune to litigate, with unpredictable results.
Finally, if research would reveal some legal leg to stand on, you could have the attorney write a demand/threat letter to the municipality, which may or may not become frightened at the prospect of litigation.
1 user found this answer helpful
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