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Montana drops lawsuits against businesses over virus rules

Montana drops lawsuits against businesses over virus rules

  • Updated

HELENA — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday that the state is dropping legal action filed last year against five businesses in northwestern Montana accused of violating public health orders.

As part of a settlement filed in the Flathead County district court, the businesses are also dropping counterclaims against the state.

The lawsuit was filed by the state health department under former Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, last October. It accused the businesses of failing to adequately enforce the statewide mask mandate meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.

As part of the settlement, the state will pay $94,491 in attorney fees accumulated by the defendants.

Gianforte, a Republican, promised to end the legal action soon after taking office in January.

"We already have enough federal overreach that we don't need the state joining in," he said in a statement on Thursday.

The businesses involved are the Remington Bar, Sykes Diner and Scotty's Bar in Kalispell, and the Ferndale Market and Your Turn Mercantile near Bigfork. They filed a counter lawsuit in November claiming the agency selectively targeted them and hurt them financially, officials said.

Separately, a case filed by Gallatin County against Rocking R Bar for failing to follow COVID-19 mitigation rules was dismissed last month after Gianforte eliminated several health mandates put in place by his predecessor, NBC Montana reported.

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