Jim’s Mowing joins massive class action
About 700 Jim's Mowing franchisees prevented from working under stage four restrictions are joining a multimillion lawsuit against the Victorian government.
Carbone Lawyers managing partner Tony Carbone told NCA NewsWire his firm would be pushing for about $20 million in compensation.
"The bottom line is these gardeners should have been working, how is it possible that a gardener working on their own outside can infect anyone," he said.
"The government's whole decision making on who can and can't work was so arbitrary these gardeners have been left so destitute they are suffering from mental illness."
The action is likely to be the biggest in Australia's history, with Swinburne Law School Dean Mirko Bagaric saying it would "dwarf" any class action that had occurred previously.
"Nearly every Victorian has been adversely affected by this," he said.
Jim's Mowing founder Jim Penman told NCA NewsWire about 700 of his franchisees and self-employed tradesmen had been affected in the past 10 weeks, losing about $3000 a week.
"We hold the Premier, the Health Minister and other senior ministers personally responsible for the failures of quarantine that unleashed this disaster upon our state," Mr Penman said.
"Further, the Premier's arbitrary action in ignoring the advice of the Department of Health and Human Services and barring sole operators from working, brought needless loss and misery upon many.
"The senseless waste of this measure is shown by the fact that council gardeners continued working in groups through the lockdown, thus raising the risk of infection.
"This senseless policy still continues, with dog grooming salons allowed to operate with multiple staff, while sole operators cannot. A rational policy would have insisted that all gardening and dog grooming work be done by individuals, thus reducing the risk of infection with far less mental and financial injury."
Mr Penman said Carbone Lawyers were "so confident" of a result they had agreed to a "no win no fee" arrangement, with 10 per cent to go to the firm if Carbone Lawyers was successful.
"Yes I've lost a bit of money during this but I'm not interested in getting that money back I just want every one of my franchisees to get every cent back because they're the ones who are doing it tough and going through a lot of financial pressure," the mowing magnate said.
It comes after Mr Penman revealed plans last month to seek compensation for individual franchisees through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
He said that legal pathway would still be going ahead with Mr Penman saying "both options will be pursued".
"I don't care how it's done I just want the money to go back into the hands of these hard workers who should have never been prevented from working and earning an honest living."
Gardening, landscaping and garden maintenance businesses with an ABN were now considered lower risk industries and were allowed to return to onsite work from September 28.
Jim's Mowing franchisees were ordered to stop work on August 5 following the Premier's decision lawn mowing and garden maintenance was not allowed under strict COVID-19 guidelines.
The Premier's office was contacted for comment, with a spokesperson saying: "It would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the courts".
Originally published as Jim's Mowing joins massive class action