MARCH 15, 2023 – A unanimous Washington State Supreme Court has found in favor of TVI, Inc., which runs the Value Village and Savers thrift store chains, and affirmed dismissal of all claims brought against the company by Washington's attorney general, Bob Ferguson.
The justices found that the attorney general's claims under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) were unconstitutional and affirmed that speech related to charitable solicitation is fully protected by the First Amendment. The winning TVI defense team was led by Davis Wright litigators Jim Grant and Ross Siler.
TVI, based in Bellevue, Wash., is the largest for-profit operator of thrift stores in the country. The company works with and pays local nonprofits for the donated used goods that it sells in stores, an innovative business model that not only reduces waste but provides a significant source of funding for TVI's nonprofit partners.
Beginning with an investigation in 2014, the attorney general's office asserted a number of claims against TVI, ultimately focusing on claims that TVI's marketing could give a "deceptive net impression" that TVI itself is a charity—despite extensive signs and disclosures saying the opposite and the State's admission that it could provide no evidence that any consumer was ever deceived.
In its ruling last month, the Supreme Court unanimously held that:
- TVI's marketing and promotion of donations to its charity partners is fully protected charitable solicitation;
- TVI "has the right to advertise its lawful business model";
- the State's CPA claims fail to satisfy the required exacting scrutiny and exacting proof standards under the First Amendment; and
- the State's pursuit of CPA claims against TVI "clearly discourages" other companies from working with and supporting charities.
"This is the most comprehensive decision following and applying the U.S. Supreme Court precedents protecting charitable solicitation for more than two decades," said Grant. "It is also the culmination of eight years of investigation and litigation, and now five appellate decisions, all unanimous, rejecting the State's arguments."
The case now returns to the superior court for assessment of fees and costs that TVI is entitled to recover.
TVI's defense team also included paralegal Jason Schattenkerk, legal assistant Daniela Najera, and former Davis Wright attorneys Sarah Cox and Max Hensley.
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