Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is facing a multibillion-dollar class action suit from businesses affected by the stage four COVID-19 lockdown.
The plaintiffs are claiming failures in the hotel quarantine system led to the draconian restrictions which have brought businesses to a standstill.
Damian Scattini, partner at Sydney-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan will lead the class action.
Mr Scattini said that he served the Victorian government with an open class action lawsuit on 21 August, after his office was approached by businesses across the spectrum – from pubs, gyms, retail, sporting facilities and professional services – who have been poleaxed by the second lockdown.
“These businesses, many of them [mum-and-dad] operations, need help now. As things stand, there is no plan for them,” Mr Scattini said.
“The class action provides a path to compensation for losses that were beyond their control and not brought about by them.
“It’s quite plain what happened with hotel quarantine, which enabled the virus to escape, and cause these restrictions and losses for businesses.
“These businesses need help now, they have been [snakebitten] by this quarantine breach and some will not be around much longer.”
Mr Scattani, who is leading the case, has extensive experience launching legal action against state governments.
The Quinn Emanuel partner was part of the team that won the class action suit for 4,000 Queensland residents against the Queensland government after the 2011 floods.
The first defendant in the proceeding is the state of Victoria, but the lawsuit also names Victorian ministers Jenny Mikakos, Martin Pakula as well as their department secretaries.
The case alleges that these ministers and secretaries were negligent in their actions and/or failures to act concerning the hotel quarantine program, and that the state of Victoria is vicariously liable for their negligence.
The lead plaintiff for the case is the owner of a New York-themed restaurant, Anthony Ferrara, who is now only open for takeaway and making below $10,000 a week due to the shutdown as a hotspot suburb in Victoria’s second wave.
“Victorian businesses don’t need charity or kind thoughts from politicians,” Mr Ferrara said.
“We need certainty and we need it soon. Our situation is not our doing. We are calling to account those who put us in this dire position.”
The class action comes as Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg takes aim at Mr Andrews for failing to outline how Victoria will emerge from lockdown.
Premier Andrews is expected to outline a plan on Sunday for moving Melbourne out of stage four lockdown.