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Government lawyers plead for ‘pause’ to hotel quarantine class action


5 Districts NY owner Anthony Ferrara claimed the drop in his business was directly due to stage three and four restrictions, which he alleges were introduced as a result of mistakes made by Ms Mikakos, Mr Pakula and their department secretaries during hotel quarantine.

“Victorian businesses don’t need charity or kind thoughts from politicians,” Mr Ferrara said in a writ filed in August.

“We need certainty and we need it soon. Our situation is not our doing. We are calling to account those who put us in this dire position.”

In the Supreme Court on Monday, Adam Hochroth, the barrister for the plaintiffs, said they had contacted defendants on August 26 to begin discussions, but were yet to hear back.

He said it was unsatisfactory that the Andrews government had briefed lawyers to appear in the case just a few days before it was due to go to court.

The COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, headed by former judge Jennifer Coate, is set to hand down its findings on November 6.

Government barrister Liam Brown said several factors, including findings from the Coate inquiry, the uncertain future of other class actions and ongoing challenges faced as part of the pandemic, meant a delay was appropriate.

“Put all that together, we say, the most just and timely and efficient way of this matter proceeding is for the pause button to be pressed now,” Mr Brown said.

“We think it would be more sensible to wait and see what happens as a result of the Coate inquiry.”

Justice John Dixon warned parties against taking a combative approach, saying he would force co-operation if the plaintiff and government could not get along.

“If the parties … each take a big position up on the hill looking across the valley to the others with buckets of stones to throw at each other, then I will take different measures to ensure that the proceeding is effectively brought to one where the parties are co-operating,” Justice Dixon said.

Justice Dixon also said elements of the case were comparable to the running of the bushfire class action and that some aspects of the various class actions could be run together if they turn on a similar, or the same, legal question.

The plaintiffs will file their statement of claim by November 20, and both parties will face court for a second case management conference on December 11.

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