ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Fort Wayne catering company against the Allen County Health Department, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and the state of Indiana.
Ceruti’s Catering, Inc. filed a lawsuit because the capacity restrictions put in place at the height of the pandemic allegedly crippled its business.
Last week, Allen County Superior Court Civil Judge Jennifer DeGroote dismissed the lawsuit, granting a motion filed by the health department, Holcomb and the state.
“By dismissing the case that we filed, one of the points that was made by the defendants [Indiana’s Governor’s office and the local board of health], was that the case was moot because there was no restrictions,” said Joe Ceruti, owner of Ceruti’s. “All I can say about that is there is still a declaration of emergency in Indiana now by the governor. The case could get dismissed last week and this week or next week the Governor could enforce new restrictions. So I am not understanding the logic, all though I do respect the judge’s ruling, but I have to respectfully disagree with that concept.”
Tensions were brewing back in February when WANE 15 first reported on the frustrations and struggles from banquet hall and catering company owners.
In March of 2021, tensions came to a boil when Ceruti filed the lawsuit. In it, Ceruti alleged he’d been “discriminated” against by Holcomb’s 5-stage reopening plan, which placed capacity restrictions on places like banquet halls.
Ceruti told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that his question for the governor, the state board of health and the local board of health is “If we were in orange back then and positivity rates are the same today, why don’t we have the restrictions now.”
The Governor’s office could not be reached for comment. The Allen County Health Department stated:
Department leadership has not yet had a chance to discuss the dismissal with our attorney, so we cannot provide a comment at this time.Allen County’s Health Department
Ceruti claimed in the lawsuit that his business lost 49 events in March and April 2020, due to cancelations resulting in a substantial loss of revenue, food, and products, which he blamed on Governor Holcomb’s executive order.
In a statement when the lawsuit was filed, Holcomb stated he does his “homework before we create executive orders.” He added that he was confident in his authority to set in place “requirements that save Hoosier lives.”
Among her findings, Judge DeGroote found that Ceruti’s request for relief against Gov. Holcomb was now moot because the restrictions that hampered Ceruti’s had been rescinded, and Holcomb’s powers did not violate the state Constitution. Also, Judge DeGroote found that the Allen County Health Department was within its authority to implement restrictions and requirements.
Ceruti added that he does not have the financial means to appeal the decision.