NM high court weighs in on compensation for businesses forced to close

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday about whether businesses can sue the state for compensation due to closures from the public health orders. However, no decision was made Wednesday.

This is the third lawsuit brought to the New Mexico Supreme Court by businesses against the governor and her public health orders. In previous cases, the court sided with the Governor’s Office.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses went through waves of shutdowns and reopenings. Several businesses are arguing they deserve compensation from the state for lost revenue. “The right to have property and not have it taken by the government without providing just compensation is fundamental liberty recognized in our bill of rights,” said Blair Dunn, an attorney representing the parties of interest.

He also argued that these cases should stay in District Court to address individual cases rather than a broad sweeping decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court. The State of New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and former Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel are defendants in 14 lawsuits pending before 11 District Court judges across New Mexico. Each case seeks similar relief and argues they should be compensated by the state for suffered losses due to the public health orders.

Businesses suing include restaurants, Hinkle Family Fun Center, a floral shop, a Elite Fitness and tanning business. To avoid confusion and contradictory orders, the Attorney General’s Office asked the state supreme court to weigh in.

The state argues public health orders and business shutdowns were necessary and legal to protect New Mexicans in the pandemic from COVID-19. At this time it is not clear when the justices may reconvene to make the ruling on this case.

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