Jim’s Mowing set for massive legal fight
Jim's Mowing founder Jim Penman will try a test claim against the Victorian government for compensation over lockdown in a legal move that could "open the floodgates" for hundreds of other business owners.
It can be revealed that Mr Penman has provided legal backing for his franchisee Steve Thompson to file a compensation claim against the Department of Health and Human Services in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after he lost more than $24,000 during the lockdown last year.
Victorian barrister Ben Petrie will represent Mr Thompson at the upcoming hearing on June 9.
The 47-year-old franchisee from Doreen will argue he was "unfairly put out of work" during the lockdown and could have still operated his business without any risk of transmitting coronavirus as he was a sole trader and worked "outside only".
"It was the worst year of my entire life going through lockdown," he told NCA NewsWire.
"I was unfairly put out of work for seven weeks, the financial stress caused me to separate from my wife of ten years, we're selling our house - It's been terrible.
"This (compensation case) is for the sole traders who work by themselves outside in the fresh air, there was no contact with the public, that's the key issue here."
Jim's Mowing employees and franchisees were ordered to stop work in early August last year after lawn mowing and garden maintenance was in a list of industries forced to grind to a halt under public health orders.
Mr Penman was furious about the move, prompting him to pen multiple open letters to Premier Daniel Andrews.
The mowing magnate said Mr Thompson's case for compensation would be one of about 615, claiming all of those franchisees lost about $2000-3000 every week for two months.
"The government cannot just shut down a whole industry without reason," he said.
"If someone is put out of work they deserve justification and we've been asking for that justification but it's never been forthcoming.
"After Steve's case is heard I will be telling all of my franchisees and sole operators to make a claim for compensation … we're talking about millions-of-dollars - this is a heavy claim against the government."
Even if Mr Thompson's case was to be thrown out, Mr Penman said he would appeal the decision.
"We are determined for these sole traders who were unfairly told not to work to get compensation for their loss of income - it's the right thing to do," he said.
Court documents say the matter is "in response to public health recommendations about social distancing and to reduce the impact and risk of COVID-19 transmission".
The document says "a number of applications" had been filed with the Tribunal under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 - all of which questioned if the chief health officer had "sufficient grounds" for calling a lockdown.
The Victorian Department of Health - has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as Jim's Mowing set for massive legal fight