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Kentucky Supreme Court overturns lawsuit involving COVID restrictions filed by Boone County business

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling involving a Northern Kentucky business and COVID-19 restrictions, saying the business had not suffered injuries as it claimed and had no standing to pursue their case.

Bean’s Café and Bakery was one of the businesses that sued Gov. Andy Beshear, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Eric Friedlander and State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack in 2020 over executive orders issued in response to the pandemic.

The Kentucky Supreme Court in the Supreme Court Courtroom in Frankfort. (AOC Photo/Brian Bohannon)

After the General Assembly enacted legislation in 2021 that limited the scope and time of emergency executive orders and allowed businesses to comply with either the governor’s orders or CDC guidance, whichever was less restrictive, Beans continued to pursue the case in Boone Circuit Court, with Judge Richard Brueggeman ruling in favor of the business.

The justices held that to sustain standing after Feb. 2, 2021, the effective date of that new legislation, Beans had to have injury that was either actual or imminent. Beans plainly had no such actual or imminent injury post-February 2, 2021, and the Boone Circuit Court never found evidence of injury because Beans experienced no interference whatsoever with its choice to develop a CDC-compliant plan and operate accordingly. So, no actual injury occurred, the justices ruled.

They said without any concrete actual or imminent injury on the part of Beans, the Boone Circuit Court had no jurisdiction to grant “relief” by opining on the constitutionality of the 2021 COVID-19 legislation and enjoining the governor from interfering with Beans’ business operations.

The high court also noted that on May 14, 2021, three days before the Boone Circuit Court conducted the evidentiary hearing in this case, the governor announced the upcoming lifting of the restrictions on restaurants about which Beans complained. Despite this clear signal, the circuit court proceeded and entered its initial Judgment effective 5 p.m. on June 10, 2021, seven hours before the June 11 date on which all restrictions were in fact lifted.

Justices reversed the Boone Circuit Court decision and sent the case back to Judge Brueggeman “for dismissal of the action in its entirety.”

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