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Judge grants extended TRO against House of Pain

A gym operator that sought to delay an enforcement action brought against it by St. Louis County appears to have accepted a ruling by a federal judge, who ordered it to close its locations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 22, U.S. District Judge Ronnie L. White granted St. Louis County’s request for a temporary restraining order prohibiting House of Pain from operating its Maryland Heights and Chesterfield locations.

House of Pain has not shown any indication that it will appeal the ruling. The company also has joined the county in asking the judge to extend the two-week TRO to June 26 and to schedule a hearing on the county’s motion for preliminary injunction on June 25. White granted the motion.

The motion notes that the county anticipates issuing new guidelines for opening gyms, effective June 15. The parties told the judge they anticipate the suit will be voluntarily dismissed June 15.

The county filed its petition for a TRO and injunctive relief against House of Pain on May 11 in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The county alleged the gym continued to operate at both of its locations in defiance of the county’s stay-at-home order.

In addition to seeking to enforce that  order, the county also sought a court order requiring House of Pain to provide a list of every person who entered its gyms while open for public use for contact tracing, including names and contact information, and to pay the costs associated with COVID-19 tests for those individuals.

The case initially was set for a TRO hearing on May 13, but at the hearing’s outset, House of Pain’s attorney, Chris McDonough, announced that he’d just filed a motion for a new judge. The following hearing with the new judge was postponed because House of Pain said the county sued the wrong company.

On May 18, when the parties again reconvened, House of Pain had filed a notice with the court that it had removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

After a TRO hearing, White ruled that the continued operation of the defendants’ gyms “endangers the public health, safety, and welfare, and constitutes an unreasonable and unlawful use of Defendants’ property.”

“Further, Defendants’ continued operation puts their members at a heightened risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, thereby putting them at increased risk of contracting the virus and unknowingly spreading the virus in the community,” he said.

House of Pain’s arguments — that the county’s order and additional guidelines limiting activities in non-essential businesses are unconstitutional and it does not need to comply with them — “is not well taken,” the judge added.

White concluded that the county has shown the likelihood of success on the merits of the defendants’ constitutional challenges.

McDonough, a Chesterfield attorney, did not respond to a message left with  his firm.

In a statement, county spokesman Doug Moore said the county is pleased with the ruling.

“We are targeting June 15 for gyms to open as long as it is safe for them to do so,” he said.

The case is St. Louis County, Missouri v. House of Pain Gym Services LLC et al., 4:20-cv-655.

Coronavirus crisis

This item is part of Missouri Lawyers Media's free coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the legal community.

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