Can the rain of money prevent lawsuits?

The state is particularly generous in the second lockdown. That could help with the anticipated lawsuits. But there are still many unanswered questions about economic aid.

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) (left) and Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz (SPD) in Berlin on Thursday

EIt was almost like on March 13th, when Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Economics Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) sat in front of the blue wall of the federal press conference on Thursday, only with the difference that there was no corona safety distance at that time. In March they presented the first aid program for the economy, which Scholz called the “Bazooka”. The finance minister did not want to make a similar martial statement on Thursday. But he left no doubt: there is still ammunition.

An “extraordinary economic aid” is intended to help the companies affected by the upcoming closings over November. For the first time, companies should not only receive grants for fixed costs, but compensation for lost sales. Specifically: 75 percent of the turnover from November 2019 for companies with up to 50 employees, for the larger ones a little less, as they say.

Scholz has estimated up to 10 billion euros for this. They are to be financed from the 25-billion-euro budget for the bridging aid, of which only a small part has so far flowed. Altmaier spoke of a “requirement of state solidarity” to help the affected restaurateurs, bars, theaters, fitness studios and other leisure facilities. One does not want to “mess up, but plop down”. Scholz added: “The limitation helps us to cope with that.”

Aid could convince the courts

This does not seem to catch on with many of the companies affected. In any case, the phones in the office of the Berlin lawyer Niko Härting didn’t stand still on Thursday: innkeepers, tattoo and fitness studios, bowling alley operators wanted to know how they can act against the expected closings. They are dismayed that, although they have implemented extensive hygiene concepts, they are no longer helping.

In recent weeks, the lawyer has successfully taken action against the curfew for a number of pub owners, and a Berlin court upheld six more lawsuits on Thursday. In Lower Saxony, too, the regulation was overturned on Thursday – including the ban on serving alcohol. Lawyers in his law firm are therefore already working on the justification for the next wave of lawsuits, but as far as the announced lockdown is concerned, it is actually still premature. “So far we only have one catalog of announcements that the state governments have yet to implement,” clarifies the Berlin constitutional lawyer Christoph Möllers. Only then can those affected take action.

The owners concerned may not be convinced by the federal government’s generosity, but legally it could make a difference, even if those concerned criticize that this is no more than a drop in the ocean. “In terms of proportionality, the fact that the federal government has promised to compensate for a large part of the loss in sales will play a role,” says constitutional lawyer Christoph Degenhart. He is therefore more likely to expect individual corrections by the courts in the next week. “They will not overturn the whole package of measures.”

Obviously, this time the Chancellor and Prime Minister have made a lot more effort to make the measures legally valid. In her government statement, the Chancellor emphasized the need for the regulations that she considers constitutional. “The justification is now more sound,” says Degenhart, “but not convincing in all aspects.” He lacked clear statements about the extent to which the industries concerned would have influenced the infection process. However, Merkel stressed that these findings did not exist.