Victoria’s Supreme Court has ruled a class action will proceed against the Victorian Government, key ministers, and bureaucrats over the alleged mismanagement of the State’s hotel quarantine program that forced businesses into a second lockdown.
Justice John Dixon’s ruling follows a two-year battle for businesses to fight for compensation.
Quinn Emanuel partner Damian Scattini, who is leading the class action, said more than two years on business owners are still paying the price for the lockdown and Friday’s ruling was an important win for them.
“We welcome the decision. When the Victorian Government decided to run a mandatory hotel quarantine program, it took on a duty to ensure it was managed properly. If the hotel quarantine program had been handled competently by the people in charge, there would not have been a second lockdown,” Mr Scattini said.
“That lockdown decimated businesses and through this class action, we are giving business owners a way to get back some of what they lost.
“The class action relates to tens of thousands of businesses that provided goods or services to the public from bricks and mortar premises in Victoria and suffered financial loss because of Victoria’s second lockdown, which started in July 2020,” he said.
“We are in the early stages and already, we’ve been inundated with calls and emails from thousands of business owners across Victoria, from hospitality and retail to fitness and beauty, who are desperate for help.
“One gym owner went from earning $10,000 a week to $50 a week. The lead plaintiff is a restaurant owner who, like many hospitality venues, had to pivot to a local take-away offering and was forced to cease dine in operations. These businesses are still struggling.”
Mr Scattini said the class action was about fighting on behalf of hard-working business owners and was not about politics nor the important decision to implement a quarantine program.
“The class action is focused on the way Victoria’s mandatory hotel quarantine program was managed, and that happened to be the responsibility of the State of Victoria, and certain Ministers and Department Secretaries,” he said.
“Unlike the successful hotel quarantine program in New South Wales, quarantine in Victorian hotels was a disaster. The defendants were responsible for the unqualified, poorly trained, ill-equipped quarantine staff. The defendants’ negligence in managing the program led to the lockdown of Victorian businesses.
“As the Premier said at the time, genomic sequencing revealed that coronavirus cases could be traced back to ‘staff members in hotel quarantine breaching well known and well understood infection control protocols’ and ‘[c]learly there has been a failure in the operation of this program’.”
“Nothing will give business owners back the sleepless nights, but the negligence can and should be addressed and business owners ought to be compensated. That’s what this class action is about, and we welcome the Court’s decision, which allows it to go forward.”
Link to Media Kit including fact sheet and image of Damian Scattini can be found HERE