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New York City Bankruptcy Lawyer / New York City COVID-19 Business Takings Lawyer

New York City COVID-19 Business Takings Lawyer

Governments at all levels have taken unprecedented steps to protect public health in the face of COVID-19. This novel coronavirus exploded on the world stage in 2020, causing illness and death in large numbers. To prevent the spread of the disease while researchers work on a vaccine, governments have instituted widespread closures of businesses while ordering people to stay at home except for necessary activities such as acquiring food or medical care.

These closure orders, while arguably necessary for public health, have taken an enormous toll on our state and national economies and have inflicted tremendous financial injury on local businesses. Both the U.S. and New York State Constitutions explicitly state that “private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.” Financial harm caused by closure orders may require compensation. New York City COVID-19 business takings lawyer Harry D. Lewis is knowledgeable and experienced in government “takings” litigation and is willing to consider litigation on your behalf. Call the Law Office of Harry D. Lewis if you or our business has suffered a financial loss due to the governor’s closure orders.

The Law of Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article One, Section Seven of the New York Constitution, both prohibit the government from taking private property for public use without “just compensation” to the property owner. The power of the government to take private property in this way is known as eminent domain. When the government destroys private property or deprives the owner of its use or value, without actually taking possession of the property, this is known as inverse condemnation.

The requirement to pay just compensation has been found to apply to emergency takings. However, courts have found an exception to the compensation requirement when property is destroyed in an emergency rather than confiscated. Why the difference? Why would the government owe compensation for an inverse taking in a non-emergency setting but not during an emergency, yet owe compensation for a physical taking whether in an emergency or not?

In an article published in the Michigan Law Review in 2016, Brooklyn Law School Professor Brian Angelo Lee argues that justice requires at least partial compensation in these instances. Professor Lee’s paper discusses may different types of emergency destruction, including disease eradication. Presciently, Professor Lee noted that emergency destruction for disease eradication “may continue to grow as governments around the world increasingly seek to avert deadly global pandemics by destroying potential vectors, such as poultry and livestock, that may incubate and transmit new infectious diseases.” Citing the H5N1 avian influenza (bird flu) pandemic of 2005 in particular, the article mentions compensable takings such as:

  • Destroying buildings to prevent the spread of infection
  • Destroying vegetation that could function as a conduit for airborne pathogens
  • Destroying healthy poultry and livestock to prevent transmission

The logic behind these arguments could readily apply to force the government to compensate business owners for financial losses incurred as a result of government-ordered shutdowns as a means of slowing the spread of the current coronavirus outbreak.

An Attorney Experienced in Government Takings Litigation

Attorney Harry D. Lewis is experienced in the field of government takings law. His work on this subject and related areas includes:

  • Litigation defending against an unsuccessful attempt by the Pennsylvania Attorney General to seize control of a mutual benefit nonprofit corporation in Pennsylvania without just compensation
  • Preparation of proposed federal litigation against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for violation of a HUD enabling statute in approving a federal loan guarantee for a private commercial development threatening the property rights of suburban homeowners

Free Consultation on New York City COVID-19 Business Loss Claims

To discuss whether you may be owed compensation for a government taking of your business, call the Law Office of Harry D. Lewis at 914-473-5736.

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