Massage therapists file lawsuit challenging illegal, warrantless searches and seizures that target their businesses
April 06, 2022
Billings, Montana; April 6, 2022: Today, a group of Billings-based massage therapists filed a federal lawsuit challenging a city ordinance that forces massage therapists to allow random, unannounced searches of their businesses and patient records, or risk criminal prosecution for insisting on a warrant as required by the Fourth Amendment.
Theresa Vondra is proud to serve clients from all walks of life, including people suffering from joint pain or arthritis, as well as those injured as a result of physical or psychological trauma. Her patients value the privacy, care, and confidentiality her business provides.
The city ordinance threatens the comfort and security Vondra has worked so hard to foster for her clients and employees alike. If, without the usual limitation of obtaining a warrant on probable cause, police can invade her business and access her client records, massage rooms, employee and client lockers, and other private areas without notice or a warrant, that puts her patients, employees, and business at risk.
Lynda Larvie is another massage therapist in Billings and has stepped up to join Vondra’s lawsuit against the city’s invasive search scheme. Larvie is a medical massage practitioner who owns Bella Salon in Billings, where she provides therapeutic massage services and rents space to two hairstylists, also subject to warrantless searches, because of the broad sweep of the ordinance’s language.
Donna Podolak, owner of Donna’s Massage Therapy, works as a massage therapist from her private apartment in a retirement community and likewise faces unannounced invasions, not only of her business, but therefore her home. With more people, like Podolak, working from home in the post-pandemic world, business licensing conditions like those imposed by the City of Billings will increasingly expose private spaces to warrantless searches and seizures without cause unless people like Vondra, Larvie, and Podolak stand up for their constitutional right to security against indiscriminate searches of their private property.
“Law-abiding business owners should not be forced to choose between their livelihood and their rights to property and privacy,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Daniel Woislaw. “The Fourth Amendment provides a clear blueprint for legal searches through warrants. The city cannot skip that process just to make investigations easier.”
The case, Vondra v. City of Billings, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in Billings.
Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 14 victories out of 16 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.