Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews faces a class-action lawsuit from businesses affected by the state’s second round of COVID-19 restrictions, who say there should be compensation for the consequences of the state’s botched hotel quarantine program.
Damian Scattini, a partner at global law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, has served the Victorian government with an open class-action lawsuit alleging unreasonable failures in containing the coronavirus led to thousands of small businesses losing their livelihoods.
Melbourne restaurant 5 Districts NY has already signed on as the lead plaintiff, Scattini says.
“We don’t complain about the government’s decision-making process. It’s not the fact they put the second lockdown into effect, its the fact it was done after the botched hotel quarantine,” Scattini tells SmartCompany.
“[The virus] was containable and contained until the hotel quarantine was messed up.”
A biosecurity breach in state-run hotel quarantine has been identified as the source of a large proportion of Victoria’s coronavirus cases over the last few months, with an independent inquiry hearing evidence of lax procedures in recent weeks.
Businesses have expressed frustration that a crushing stage four lockdown, which requires nearly all companies in Victoria to restrict their operations in some way, was effectively caused by failures in managing high-risk travellers to the state.
Scattini would not say how many companies have expressed interest in joining the class action, but said staff had complained about a deluge of businesses contacting the firm in recent days.
“There are tens of thousands of businesses that experienced a loss as a result of the second lockdown,” he says.
Scattini says its too early to estimate what potential damages could be if the case is successful, but there are tens of thousands of companies and hundreds of individual restrictions tied to the stage four lockdown, which covers the entirety of metropolitan Melbourne.
Scattini has form in suing state governments, having brought a case against the Queensland government over negligence related to the state’s 2011 floods.
The compensation bill in that case was estimated to be as high as $1 billion.
The case is just the latest headache for Andrews, who is facing renewed pressure from the federal government this week over the state’s response to the pandemic.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has been rolled out for a running commentary on what he has described as a “litany of failures” managing the state’s second wave