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L.A. County’s Pandemic-Driven Mall Closings Bring Suit (1)

Sept. 11, 2020, 7:09 PM; Updated: Sept. 14, 2020, 3:17 PM

Los Angeles County was hit with a proposed class action in federal court challenging its Covid-19-related closure of non-essential businesses in indoor malls and shopping centers.

Del Amo Fashion Center Operating Co. LLC and retailer Rivas Sports Inc. filed the suit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeking to end the closings in the county, which includes the city of Los Angeles and suburbs.

Indoor malls are open and operating safely elsewhere in California and other parts of the country, and stores not located in indoor shopping centers or malls are open and operating safely in L.A., the complaint says.

However, indoor shopping centers and their interior retailers in the county “uniquely remain closed, and many of their employees, like Ms. Rivas, remain out of work—without any explanation or any scientific support,” the complaint alleges.

No evidence shows that indoor malls pose a greater risk of spreading Covid-19 than the large and small retailers, including hair salons and barbershops, that the county has permitted to remain open, the plaintiffs allege.

The retailers say their due process rights are being violated because they have been given no way to challenge what they say is the “lack of any rational basis for the county order.”

The county declined to comment on the litigation but defended its actions.

“From the onset of the pandemic, Los Angeles County has been intensely committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents through an unprecedented crisis using science and data and responding in real time to a deadly and previously unknown virus that has tragically claimed thousands of lives and upended life for millions of people,” county spokesman Shane Bao told Bloomberg Law.

“The County continues to assess the data, the science and the state guidelines to safely guide the reopening of our critical community and economic sectors,” Bao said.

Causes of Action: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of due process under U.S. and California constitution.

Relief: Damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Potential Class Size: The complaint doesn’t specify the number of class members but estimates more than 150 interior retailers aren’t essential businesses in the Del Amo mall alone.

Attorneys: Latham and Watkins LLP represents the plaintiffs.

The case is Rivas Sports Inc. v. County of Los Angeles, C.D. Cal., No. 20-cv-08312, 9/10/20.

(Story that ran Sept. 11 updated to add comment from county)

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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