Bristol Women's Health opened in summer 2022 across Gate City Highway from the Bristol Casino. Photo by Megan Schnabel.
Bristol Women's Health opened this summer across Gate City Highway from the Bristol Casino. Photo by Megan Schnabel.

The owners of the building that houses Bristol Women’s Health learned in June that the clinic would be providing abortions but waited six months – and accepted a $10,000 lease payment – before filing a lawsuit claiming that their tenant had misled them about its services, the clinic’s lawyer maintains in court filings seeking to have the suit dismissed. 

The lawsuit, which was filed last month in Bristol Circuit Court, asks that the lease agreement between the clinic and Kilo Delta LLC be terminated. But the clinic’s response, filed Friday afternoon by attorney Alexis Tahinci, asserts that the six-month delay should bar that from happening,

“The Supreme Court of Virginia has repeatedly held that a plaintiff seeking to disaffirm or rescind a contract on the ground of fraud must do so promptly,” the response asserts. The “unreasonable delay” is prejudicial to Bristol Women’s Health, which has invested money in the property itself and in marketing and staffing the clinic at that specific location, it says.

The response also denies that clinic representatives deceived Chase King and Chadwick King, the principals of Kilo Delta, and says that the brothers never asked about the services that the clinic would offer.

“The Kings’ regrets about the deal they made and their lack of due diligence do not entitle them to rescission of the valid contract they chose to enter,” the new filings state.

Bristol Women’s Health has attracted national and international attention since it opened last summer in response to tightening abortion restrictions in neighboring Tennessee. A medical practice on the Tennessee side of Bristol had to stop performing abortions when that state’s so-called trigger law took effect following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. The doctor who operated that office was part of the effort to open the new clinic.

The opposition ramped up in October, when the Richmond-based Family Foundation worked with a city council member to draft a change to the city’s zoning ordinance that would prohibit future abortion clinics from opening in Bristol. Some legal experts have questioned whether such an amendment would be allowed under state law. While both the city council and the planning commission have discussed it in closed sessions, neither has publicly addressed it since October.

In their lawsuit, the Kings claim that clinic representatives “willfully concealed” their plan to offer abortions at the clinic before they signed their lease last June. The Kings’ company “has suffered great financial loss and lost business opportunity; been forced to suffer in its reputation and endure humiliation within their business and social circles; [and] been required to endure great mental anguish,” the suit says.

A letter of intent from the clinic’s real estate broker listed the proposed use of the building as a “medical clinic,” but the suit claims that the broker “represented in conversation with the Kings that the Defendants were her physicians and operated a general family practice.” 

The lease, which is for one year with options for seven more years, was signed and took effect June 1. About a week later, the suit says, the Kings learned from one of their employees that the new tenant likely would be an abortion clinic.

“They felt they had been misled and would never have leased the property to the Defendants” if they had known this, as they were “morally opposed” to such a use, the suit said.

The Kings’ lawsuit says that they asked their new tenant to voluntarily terminate the agreement weeks after the lease was signed.

Clinic representatives refused, but the Kings didn’t seek legal intervention at that point, the new filings assert. Instead, the landlords allowed their new tenant to continue to invest in the property, approved several requests for repairs and improvements, and, in October, deposited a rent check for $10,000. The clinic already had made a $25,000 lease payment.

Tahinci’s filings also take issue with the lawsuit’s claim that clinic representatives misled the Kings about their intentions for the property. The landlords never asked whether the clinic would provide abortion services, nor does the lawsuit say that they ever indicated that the types of services to be performed at the property “was in their minds material to the transaction.”

The letter of intent provided by the clinic’s broker truthfully stated that the business would be a medical clinic, the new filings say, and the defendants had no legal duty to offer any details about the specific services that would be provided. While the Kings assert in their lawsuit that the broker said the defendants operated a general family practice, the suit doesn’t allege that this was untrue, the response says. Nor was it a statement about the intended future use of the building, it says.

The response also says that a “simple internet search” would have revealed that the people who signed the lease on behalf of the clinic – Diane Derzis and Dr. Wesley Adams – have long been involved in providing abortions.

For 40 years, Adams operated a health practice that offered a full suite of women’s health services, including abortions, a mile away from the new clinic. Derzis has owned a number of abortion clinics, including the one in Jackson, Mississippi, that was at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

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

The response also seeks to remove Derzis and Adams individually from the suit, as both signed the lease in their capacity as officers of the clinic. Adams also sold his share in the clinic to Derzis in August and is no longer a part of the business. 

A court date has not yet been set, according to online court records.

Megan Schnabel

Megan Schnabel is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach her at megan@cardinalnews.org.