City of Seattle, CHOP business owners agree to $3.65 million settlement

Feb 17, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm
An empty Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) is pictured after Seattle Police cleared the CHOP and retook the department's East Precinct in Seattle, Washington on July 1, 2020. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP via Getty Images)

The City of Seattle has reached a settlement agreement of $3.65 million dollars (including $600,000 for legal expenses) with the group of business owners that sued the city over damages done during CHOP in 2020, according to recently acquired court documents.

The plaintiffs in the case — business and property owners within the 16-block portion of Capitol Hill’s CHAZ/CHOP — alleged that the city “actively endorsed, enabled, and encouraged the occupation,” according to a U.S. District Court judge’s orders. According to court documents, the group is seeking $2.9 million. The judge denied the group’s class action certification last May.

Businesses, residents suing the City of Seattle over CHOP denied class action certification

In his first order, U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly wrote there is evidence of “gross negligence” by the city and significant evidence that the destruction of CHOP evidence was intentional while city officials attempted to hide the deleting of texts for months in the face of opposing lawsuits.

Now a tentative settlement for an undisclosed amount of money has been reached between the city and these businesses for the damages incurred during the protests.

The settlement is expected to be completed by March 3, when the parties will formally ask for the case to be dismissed.

Following Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) departure from the area, the owners affected cited deteriorating safety conditions in Capitol Hill between the months of June and July 2020. Violent instances, including two fatal shootings, rape, and a robbery, were all reported in the area during that time.

Last month, Zilly handed down sanctions against the City of Seattle regarding thousands of missing text messages from the phones of top officials, including the former mayor and police chief, during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) in the summer of 2020.

The sanction allowed the jury to view the missing evidence as painting the city in a bad light.

Judge sanctions City of Seattle over CHOP missing text messages

“City officials deleted thousands of text messages from their city-owned phones in complete disregard of their legal obligation to preserve relevant evidence,” Zilly wrote. “Further, the city significantly delayed disclosing … that thousands of text messages had been deleted” and could not be reproduced or recovered.

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City of Seattle, CHOP business owners agree to $3.65 million settlement