A Saginaw-area attorney is encouraging small businesses to file "intent to file" claims with the Lansing's Court of Claims, saying that there is a chance for small businesses to recoup lost business funds.
"I don’t know for sure that the courts will award compensation from the state of Michigan due to the shut down orders," said attorney Philip Ellison in a March YouTube video, "but what I do know is that is if you file that notice of intent you have that opportunity to go to court and ask for that compensation."
Ellison, who runs Outside Legal Counsel has as history of suits against big government, and the executive orders enacted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, during the pandemic, have been his latest target.
Earlier this week Ellison filed a suit challenging the governor’s authority in enacting nearly four dozen executive orders in response to COVID-19. But he’s not stopping there. He is currently soliciting small businesses encouraging them to file “intent to file” claims with the Lansing’s Court of Claims.
"With the long term I am looking into class actions but the courts can’t handle those cases right now," he told WXYZ, explaining that right now he's focusing on making small businesses aware of this opportunity. The statute of limitation for claims, he said, is six months after the start of the March 16 shut down orders.
"...business owners need to protect their own business interests by filing these notices on their own behalf," he continued.
The attorney has been advertising this legal opportunity on Facebook, which is where Anthony Beven, the owner of Detox Day Spa in Orion Township first learned about it.
Beven who estimates that he's lost 95% of his revenue since the shut-down, filed an "intent to file" claim last week.
"We need a plan. It’s easy to shut businesses down but without a plan it’s going to be a lot harder for us to re-open," said Beven who is hoping to recoup at least a portion of his lost income.
"This is a huge loss for me, and it’s not just me," he said. "There are small businesses across the state that are bleeding money every day. There are a lot of small businesses that are not going to be able to re-open."
When asked about the future suits, a spokesperson for the governor’s office told us that it is their practice to not to comment on pending litigation.
Otie McKinley, the communications director for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation & Pure Michigan, provided the station with a statement, however, countering the claim that Gov. Whitmer is not doing enough for small businsses.
"The state of Michigan, has been working closely with our partners at the local, state and federal levels to help provide resources and support for small businesses throughout Michigan facing economic challenges due to COVID-19," he wrote, adding that the governor took "necessary and decisive steps to mitigate the outbreak while working to lessen the impact on small businesses."
"This includes her early success in requesting the U.S. Small Business Administration provide a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration to unlock critical financial resources for small businesses," he continued, pointing out that Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II joined the Small Business Association "in calling for additional federal SBA funding and has continued to advocate for Michigan businesses to benefit from the federal Paycheck Protection Program."
"The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has led small business relief efforts including the Michigan Small Business Relief Fund, Tech Startup Stabilization Fund and the Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants, while also leveraging its current in-state services programs, such as its access to capital initiatives," McKinley continued, adding: "The state recognizes these are unprecedented times, forcing many small businesses and their employees to face economic uncertainty. That is why we are directing all available resources to provide small businesses support and relief at this time."