A lawsuit targeting Governor Eric Holcomb, the state of Indiana and the Wells County Health Department over pandemic mask rules at restaurants was dismissed Monday afternoon.
Wells Circuit Court Judge Kenton W. Kiracofe found the matter to be “moot,” since the requirements at the center of the case are no longer in effect.
The owners of Yergy’s State Road BBQ in Bluffton filed suit in December 2020, arguing that the mandates that applied to restaurant workers violated their constitutional rights, and asserting that failure to wear a mask posed no imminent threat to the community.
“No one is forced to consume food product prepared by Yergy or otherwise visit Yergy’s business or be served by a Yergy employee that is not wearing a face covering,” it read, in part.
But a spokesperson for Holcomb at the time told ABC21 that he was confident he had the authority to enact the executive order.
In June, defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss, noting that the restaurant had not identified “what provisions are still in effect that affect its business,” since “nearly every, if not all requirements that would apply to Yergy’s” had been rescinded before the matter played out in the courts.
The plaintiffs still hoped for a ruling in their favor, the paperwork shows, with a note that “even if the issues presented are now moot, the issues presented are of great public interest.”
Monday’s dismissal makes that unlikely.
Kiracofe explained that while “there are interesting constitutional issues presented during this uncertain period of Indiana’s history, the ability of a trial court to issue, essentially, an advisory opinion is contrary to the precedent of Indiana law.”
He concluded: “While the Court is sympathetic to the hardship the government’s response to the pandemic has caused Plaintiff’s establishment, along with other Hoosiers, the subsequent actions by the Governor and the Indiana General Assembly have made the issues presented in the complaint moot.”
ABC21 has reached out to the governor’s office and to Yergy’s for their reactions to the dismissal.
Yergy’s State Road BBQ reopened in March, after a closure of about 7 months.