“It’s legalized extortion!” Richland business owners respond to lawsuit

RICHLAND, Wash. – Mother-daughter duo Vikki Butler and Brittini Van Heel own Real Deals in the Richland Uptown Shopping Center.

They said they were shocked to receive a letter saying they were out of compliance with American Disabilities Act regulations.

“You could just tell how devastated she was,” Brittini said she got the phone call from her mom while at her daughter’s birthday.

“I can’t believe it, we took it very personally we thought we did something wrong,” Vikki added.

Both women said they work hard to be accessible to all customers and they’ve never had a complaint like this before.

While the two cannot discuss how they’re allegedly out of compliance, they did share they’re not the only business being targeted in the Richland shopping center.

“They are drive-by, ADA lawsuits, and basically the person doesn’t have to come into your business they just drive by and they can file suit,” Vikki explained she did some digging after receiving the letter from a Spokane lawyer.

Brittini said they later found out someone had been driving by at night and peeking into the windows of their stores to find ADA violations. They hope by sharing their story, more locally-owned businesses will be spared from future suits.

With this lawsuit, the owners are faced with two, expensive choices: fight it or settle.

“You take the settlement because you can’t afford to fight it because you’re a small business,” Vikki said.

“This type of thing is adding insult to injury; we are dealing with a global pandemic, small businesses are barely surviving, if at all, and ADA violations disqualify any businesses applying for COVID grants or any other type of COVID assistance,” Stephanie Swanberg with the Regional Chamber of Commerce explained.

Swanberg, the Director of Government and Regional Affairs for the chamber said there is a bill in Washington legislature relating to this type of situation.

House Bill 1574 would give businesses a notice and thirty days to comply instead of immediately being slapped with a lawsuit.

“We support them and that we want them to have time, to be able to work on being in compliance
and avoid legal action,” Swanberg said.

“We will still have to continue our journey with this lawsuit, but what this bill will do will protect others,” Van Heel added.

“Please everybody write their lawmakers, encourage your lawmakers, to vote for this bill, get this bill passed in the
next session,” Butler said.

Swanberg said they fully support ADA compliance and law for all businesses as well as the protections of HB 1574. Local Representative Brad Klippert is one of the sponsors on the bill, however this year’s legislative session ends on April 25th.

KAPP KVEW has reached out to the filing lawyer over the phone and email, we have not yet received a response.

While it remains unclear if the Spokane lawyer is representing someone locally, with legitimate concerns, these owners still believe they are drive-by suits.

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