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Judge to hear arguments in gym lawsuit; Attorney says they may open soon

Posted at 5:05 PM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-16 17:05:23-04

HOLLAND, Mich. — It’s been a tough few months for Matt Haverdink and his staff at F45 North Holland after closing in March because of COVID-19.

“We got hit pretty hard,” said Haverdink. “We basically went from a healthy revenue stream, to about a 95 percent cut in revenue.”

Three months later, and with outdoor fitness classes, athletic practices, and K-12 school sports restrictions lifted, Haverdink wonders why his business, and others like it, can’t reopen.

“We really didn’t understand the Governor’s rational as to why we were last,” said Haverdink.

That’s why the gym joined at least 165 other gyms in a lawsuit in May suing Governor Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon.

The nine-count complaint argues their actions during the pandemic violate the gym owners’ rights under the United States Constitution and state law.

However, after not seeing what he calls, “any movement” with the lawsuit, attorney Scott Erskine filed a motion for preliminary injunction June 9.

“It’s asking the court to enjoin the state from enforcing the executive orders as they apply to my clients,” said Erskine. “In other words, it would allow them to open.”

A federal court judge in Lansing will hear arguments in the case Wednesday.

Erskine says if he rules in their favor, it wouldn’t dismiss the lawsuit, but allow gyms to open while litigation continues. He adds while the injunction is seeking relief for his clients, it’s not possible to carve out exceptions, so the judge would likely apply it to all gyms in Michigan.

Erskine says their main argument will focus on contradictions between what’s allowed to be open and closed in Michigan.

“The lines that the governor has drawn are completely arbitrary,” said Erskine. “The governor recently is allowing K through 12 Sports to resume. On a basketball court, you are breathing hard. In hockey, you're breathing hard.”

MDHHS declined to comment, citing pending litigation. An interview request to Whitmer’s office went unanswered.

However, in its brief, the state argues the gyms’ claims aren’t valid, citing previous cases. It also says the shared space and heavy breathing in indoor gyms could lead to the virus’ spread.

“My clients have been closed for over 13 weeks and they're all running out of time as to whether they'll ever be able to reopen their doors.”

Erskine says a ruling by the judge will likely not come on Wednesday, but estimates it to come within a week of the hearing.