A Pennsylvania class action lawsuit claims that the governor should have provided financial aid to small businesses and workers when ordering a COVID-19 closure.
The COVID-19 class action lawsuit was filed by Schulmerich Bells LLC, a company that manufactures musical handbells and chimes, as well as two former employees who were laid off when the company closed due the the governor’s COVID-19 order.
Employees Frank Carbalo and Wendey Helverson filed for unemployment but say they face financial uncertainty.
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According to Schulmerich Bells and its employees, the governor’s order to close inessential businesses without offering compensation represents a violation of the Fifth Amendment.
Allegedly, this action represents taking of private property for public purpose, which the Fifth Amendment prohibits without providing compensation.
The company seeks to represent both itself and other small businesses and workers, asserting that many others are being similarly affected by the closures.
In arguing that forcing Schulmerich Bells to close does constitute taking private property, the company and employees point to the economic losses they’ve suffered as a result.
According to Schulmerich Bells, the company was previously thriving, and its workers were gainfully employed. However, now the workers are reportedly facing economic hardship and the prospect of needing to find new work.
Schulmerich Bells and its workers claim that not only did they have to close, but they were told that if they failed to do so, they could face fines and “unspecified criminal penalties.”
The Pennsylvania executive COVID-19 order explains that on March 19, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf issued a COVID-19 Closure Order which required businesses determined to be not “life sustaining” to shut down.
This effort was reportedly an attempt to slow the spread of COVID019, a global pandemic. This choice was reportedly advised by Dr. Rachel Levine, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
According to Schulmerich and its employees, the governor’s order was revised the next day, and revised again on March 24, 2020, to further articulate which businesses would shut down and which would continue to operate.
The enforcement of the business shut down was then repeatedly delayed from March 21, 2020 to March 23, 2020.
The Pennsylvania business closure class action lawsuit explains that financial relief was “notably absent” from the COVID-19 Closure Orders or other communication from the governor.
Allegedly, he did not make “any provision addressing the inherent financial burden inflicted by the Orders on individuals and businesses throughout Pennsylvania,” which the company and its workers say is directly caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
To make matters worse, the shutdown is indefinite, notes Schulmerich and its employees. In their eyes, the unknown timeline makes it difficult for them, other small businesses and workers to best plan for their financial future, or anticipate how this change might affect them further.
In Schumerich’s case, spring and summer are the busiest time of year, because many handbell performing groups send instruments to the company for repair. Allegedly, timing is essential in executing these repairs. The company explains that they have a limited number of repair slots, so performing groups must schedule in advance to have their instruments fixed.
According to the company, these repairs are essential to Schulmerich’s business, and they should be in full swing. However, now, Schulmerich is unable to book or complete orders, which will significantly affect the company’s operation and business.
The coronavirus class action explains that the repairs that must be performed often are time-consuming, and require ordering parts from suppliers. Because the governmental order is in effect until further notice, the company allegedly cannot work on orders now, nor can it plan future orders, repairs and bookings for when the order ends.
This uncertainty has reportedly taken a significant toll on the company’s finances, and as a result, on the financial well-being and employment of its workers.
Schulmerich Bells and its former employees are represented by Jonathan Goldstein and Shawn Rogers of Goldstein Law Partners LLC.
The Pennsylvania COVID-19 Small Business Closure Class Action Lawsuit is Schulmerich Bells LLC, et al. v. Thomas Wolf, et al., Case No. 2:20-cv-01637, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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