An Allen Superior Court judge has granted Gov. Eric Holcomb’s, the state of Indiana’s and the Allen County Health Department’s requests to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them for COVID-19 restrictions.
Ceruti Catering Inc. had filed a lawsuit March 9 in Allen Superior Court that claimed the imposed restrictions caused it monetary damages and lost revenues.
Judge Jennifer L. DeGroote stated in her Aug. 25 decision in part that Ceruti’s claim was moot because a new executive order was in place that rescinded the restrictions for which Ceruti’s was filing. She also wrote that the health department is subject to the governor’s and Indiana Department of Health’s orders. Also, under Indiana’s Epidemic Statute, the local department has the authority to order schools and churches closed and to prevent public gatherings to prevent and stop epidemics. Its decision “to implement additional requirements to operate certain businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic were not arbitrary, conscience-shocking or oppressive.”
Ceruti is a full-service catering and event-planning company that offers banquet space, catering, alcoholic beverage service and decorating services.
Ceruti’s Summit Park location is designed to host social events, such as wedding receptions, and business events. It’s Diamond Room has a maximum capacity of 600, according to its website.
The lawsuit alleged that Holcomb’s executive orders over the previous year had decimated the business due to loss of revenue. In March 2020 Holcomb’s executive order 20-08 declared Ceruti a nonessential business and ordered it to cease operations. Ceruti lost 34 events that month. The company also lost money on food and products that had been ordered in preparation for these cancelled events.
April 2020 was worse; Ceruti lost 49 events and customers weren’t booking future events due to uncertainty over the pandemic.
In May Holcomb’s executive order 20-26 began the process of opening up the state, but Ceruti would have been limited to gatherings of 10 to 15 people. The lawsuit noted the size of the banquet rooms would have allowed for much greater numbers of people while still maintaining social distancing requirements.
The Allen County Department of health also established rules even stricter than EO 2036. The lawsuit notes that neighboring Whitley County did not have to abide by those rules, therefore the ACDH requirements are discriminatory against Ceruti, the lawsuit stated.
Ceruti lost all its booked events for November and December 2020, resulting in a loss of revenue of over $500,000.
Yergy’s State Road BBQ in Bluffton sued Holcomb and the Wells County Health Department in December 2020. Yergy’s sued the health department, the governor and the state after being forced to shut down for violating the state’s executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the summer.