LOS ANGELES, CA — The pushback against Los Angeles County’s coronavirus shutdown orders intensified this week with a lawsuit filed by the region’s largest indoor-mall operator, seeking to reopen its doors.
Westfield — which operates indoor malls in Topanga, Culver City, Sherman Oaks, Valencia and Santa Anita — sued the county Monday, calling its mall closures “unjustifiable.” If Westfield gets its way, the Westfield Fashion Square could soon reopen.
According to the lawsuit, malls are safer than other retailers and there is “absolutely no public health justification” for their forced closure. Since the reopening in the summer and shutting down again amid a surge in new cases, county health officials have taken a slower approach to reopening than neighboring counties. Pressure to speed up the reopening process has been mounting for weeks. Monday’s lawsuit follows a proposed federal class-action suit brought by a group of business owners fighting the closure of the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance.
“The county’s arbitrary closure of indoor malls and their interior retailers has caused, and will continue to cause, substantial harms to plaintiffs, their employees, the community, and the retailers, operators, and employees of indoor malls and shopping centers throughout the county,” the suit states. “These harms include monetary losses due to reduced income, sales, and rent payments, and non-monetary and existential losses in the form of the loss of customer goodwill.”
The county’s Department of Public Health previously declined to comment on the pending Del Amo litigation, but stated that it continues to apply science and state health guidelines as signposts to reopenings.
“From the onset of the pandemic, Los Angeles County has been intensely committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents through an unprecedented crisis using science and data and responding in real time to a deadly and previously unknown virus that has tragically claimed thousands of lives and upended life for millions of people — not just in Los Angeles County but across the nation and around the world,” according to the county’s statement.
The Westfield lawsuit also names the county Board of Supervisors, Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis and Sheriff Alex Villanueva as plaintiffs.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.