Part II: Texas businesses suing state, county and city governments

Regular readers of our Texas Municipal Law Blog undoubtedly know that we recently wrote about an emerging subset of litigation: Texas businesses suing city, county or state governments over coronavirus shutdown orders.

Legal challenges to shutdown orders

Christy Drake-Adams, assistant general counsel of the Texas City Attorneys Association and the Texas Municipal League, said at least eight lawsuits have been filed against small and mid-sized Lone Star State cities by companies challenging orders that deemed their business non-essential.

Drake-Adams said cities facing the lawsuits have strong defenses available. She said the authority to protect public health with regulations is expressly stated in law.

Said Drake-Adams, “It’s not clear that anyone’s constitutional rights have been violated as a result of those regulations.”

Pandemic-related lawsuits

Here’s a quick look at some of the pandemic-related lawsuits filed against Texas governments:

  • In March, a check-cashing business filed a suit in Tarrant County district court against the city of Saginaw, arguing that it qualifies as an essential business.
  • In April, a vaping business called Mega Vape filed a lawsuit in Bexar County against San Antonio, claiming the city threatened to cut off its utilities if it did not obey a shutdown order.
  • A day later, a Marathon hotel owner filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pecos, claiming that Brewster County’s order closing his business violated his constitutional rights.
  • In May, a strip club owner filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Fort Worth, claiming the city unlawfully forced his company to close because of the sexual nature of the business.
  • Also in May, a restaurant owner and doctor teamed up on a lawsuit arguing that a Harris County order forced the closure of businesses that should have been allowed to remain open under Gov. Abbott’s emergency order.