Suit by landlord targets Bristol Women’s Health Center over abortions

By: - January 10, 2023 6:02 am
Bristol, Virginia. (Photo: Getty Images)

Bristol, Virginia. (Photo: Getty Images)

Five months after a Tennessee abortion provider moved its clinic across state lines, its Virginia landlords have filed suit saying they want the clinic out. 

The lawsuit, filed last month in Bristol, Virginia Circuit Court by commercial property owners Chadwick and Claud King, accuses the operators of the Bristol Women’s Health Center of fraud and misrepresentation. 

The Kings say they were unaware abortions would be provided when they offered the lease and are “morally opposed to the use of their property as an abortion clinic.”

“At no time during the course of the several days long communication and or negotiations, leading up to the execution of the lease agreement, did (clinic operators) disclose that they intended to operate an abortion clinic,” the lawsuit said.

In response, operators of the clinic noted their commercial real estate agent, who handled the lease transaction, told the landlords the space would be used as a “medical clinic.” 

“Bristol Women’s Health is a medical clinic,” their legal filing said, adding that neither they nor their agent was ever asked about the nature of medical services being provided at the property. The lawsuit said that the clinic operators Dr. Wesley Adams and Diane Derzis, have long been publicly identified as abortion providers, something a “simple internet search” would have revealed.

“Defendants cannot be said to have concealed information that was readily publicly available,” their response said. 

The landlords also accepted a $10,000 lease payment even after becoming aware that the clinic provided abortions, and waited months to file suit, the legal filing said.

An attorney for the property owners did not respond to an email request for an interview, and a message left at the Bristol clinic went unanswered on Monday.

The lawsuit comes six months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, leaving up to individual states to decide on the right to an abortion.

On August 25, abortion was formally outlawed in Tennessee when the so-called Human Life Protection Act took effect. 

Bristol Women’s Health Center in Bristol, Tenn. ended abortion services at midnight on Aug. 24. It continued to offer other OB-GYN care until December of last year. 

In the interim, Adams — along with Derzis, who operated the Jackson, Miss. abortion clinic at the center of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center — relocated the Bristol, Tenn. abortion clinic to the Virginia side of Bristol, a city that straddles Tennessee and Virginia, where abortion remains legal.

The opening of the clinic has generated other local controversy as well. 

In November, the Washington County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of a resolution saying the county, which encompasses the city of Bristol, did not support having an abortion clinic.

The board also directed the county’s attorney to draft a proposed zoning ordinance restricting abortion clinics within county lines. The board reconvenes in February to consider the proposed ordinance. 

Bristol Landlord Complaint by Anita Wadhwani on Scribd

 

 

Bristol Clinic Response to Lawsuit by Anita Wadhwani on Scribd

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Anita Wadhwani
Anita Wadhwani

Anita Wadhwani is a senior reporter for the Tennessee Lookout. The Tennessee AP Broadcasters and Media (TAPME) named her Journalist of the Year in 2019 as well as giving her the Malcolm Law Award for Investigative Journalism. Wadhwani is formerly an investigative reporter with The Tennessean who focused on the impact of public policies on the people and places across Tennessee. She is a graduate of Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Berkeley School of Journalism. Wadhwani lives in Nashville with her partner and two children.

MORE FROM AUTHOR