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Couple Sues Walmart Over Kids' Bath Photos

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#1 Hum

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:07

In 2008, Lisa and Anthony "A.J." Demaree took their three young daughters on a trip to San Diego. They returned home to Arizona and brought photos of their then 5, 4 and 1 1/2 year old daughters to a local Walmart in Peoria to be developed.

That should have been that, except instead of receiving 144 happy familial memories, Walmart employees reported the Demarees to the Peoria Police Department on the suspicion that they had taken pornographic images of their children. The police, in turn, called in the Arizona Child Protective Services Agency, and the couple lost custody of their daughters for over a month.

They were shocked. "Some of the photos are bathtime photos," Lisa Demaree told ABC News at the time, "but there are a few after the bath. Three of the girls are naked, lying on a towel with their arms around each other, and we thought it was so cute."

A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that the photographs were not, in fact, pornographic, and a medical exam revealed no signs of sexual abuse. The girls were returned to their parents.

But the damage had been done: The couple's named went on a central registry of sex offenders, and "We've missed a year of our children's lives as far as memories go," Demaree told ABC News.

In 2009, the couple sued the city of Peoria and the State Attorney General's office for defamation. They also sued Walmart for failing to tell them that they had an "unsuitable print policy" and could turn over photos to law enforcement without the customer's knowledge.

A federal judge in Phoenix sided with Walmart, ruling that employees in Arizona cannot be held liable for reporting suspected child pornography. The Demarees appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and on March 6 the court held a hearing before three judges.

"The photos involved were simple childhood nudity," the family's lawyer, Richard Treon, told ABC News. He argued that Walmart committed fraud on its customers by not disclosing that employees would look at their photographs. Nor did customers know that employees could take photos they found offensive to their boss, who could then call the police.

"In order to convict a person of a crime of sexual exploitation of a child, you have to show that the intent of the photographer was to sexually stimulate the viewer. All the experts agree that even police officers don't have the authority to make that decision," said Treon. "So, we argued that Walmart was negligent in setting up this program with untrained clerks and giving them tremendous power over the lives of their customers."

Walmart did not respond to an interview request from ABC News. But, according to Courthouse News the company's lawyer, Lawrence Kasten, argued that under Arizona statute employees who report child abuse without malice are immune from prosecution. He added that there was no indication of malice in this case.

"I fear that what may happen after this case is [that the] employee will sit there and say, boy, if I turn these over my employer is going to spend millions of dollars in legal fees, and I'm going to get hauled in front of a deposition for eight hours, [so] maybe I'll just stick them back in the envelope and not worry about them," he said. "Immunity is supposed to prevent exactly that from happening."

It's unknown when the appeals court will rule on the case against the city and Walmart.

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#2 fusi0n

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:09

I mean.. It sucks for their family.. but better safe than sorry.. I think Walmart handled it poorly and should have escalated it and having police do an investigation first instead of ruining parts of peoples lives..

#3 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:19

I mean.. It sucks for their family.. but better safe than sorry.. I think Walmart handled it poorly and should have escalated it and having police do an investigation first instead of ruining parts of peoples lives..


No. Parents should be able to take pictures of their children naked, providing they are not overtly sexual and there is no evidence of child abuse. I have several pictures of me naked as a child yet surprisingly enough my parents aren't paedophiles. Children shouldn't be taken into custody unless there is evidence to suggest that they are being abused - a couple of pictures of them naked after bath time certainly does not constitute abuse.

#4 fusi0n

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:24

No. Parents should be able to take pictures of their children naked, providing they are not overtly sexual and there is no evidence of child abuse. I have several pictures of me naked as a child yet surprisingly enough my parents aren't paedophiles. Children shouldn't be taken into custody unless there is evidence to suggest that they are being abused - a couple of pictures of them naked after bath time certainly does not constitute abuse.


I think Walmart handled it poorly and should have escalated it and having police do an investigation first instead of ruining parts of peoples lives..

#5 greenwizard88

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:37

I think Walmart handled it poorly and should have escalated it and having police do an investigation first instead of ruining parts of peoples lives..

So what you're saying is basically that, that escalated quickly?

Joking aside, this is a horrible thing that happened to the parents and children, and I'm not a lawyer but it doesn't pass the smell test. Someone, somewhere, messed up, and the family deserves 1. whatever million, at least. How much are last month's memories worth to you?

#6 soniqstylz

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:41

WHERE IS SHERIFF JOE ON THIS?

#7 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:42

I think Walmart handled it poorly and should have escalated it and having police do an investigation first instead of ruining parts of peoples lives..


I read your post, I simply believe that unless there was evidence of abuse no further action should have been taken. Considering there were 144 photos taken it should have been obvious to the Walmart employee that they were from a family holiday and were not sexual in nature. Unfortunately businesses are so fearful of litigation they would rather report everything to the police in order to avoid any liability than to apply common sense.

At the end of the day, Walmart's actions—in conjunction with significant failures by the police and child services—resulted in these parents losing custody of their children.

#8 KZWings

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:45

So what you're saying is basically that, that escalated quickly?

Joking aside, this is a horrible thing that happened to the parents and children, and I'm not a lawyer but it doesn't pass the smell test. Someone, somewhere, messed up, and the family deserves 1. whatever million, at least. How much are last month's memories worth to you?


Yeah, because money will fix what happened to them.

#9 Rippleman

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:46

if there was no sexual abuse, then i am sorry for them they it happened. But, I too would report something if it fringed on the boundaries. I would rather be embarrassingly wrong then horrifyingly right. We have no idea what were in the pics. Can't say what we would think unless we saw to judge.

#10 +MikeChipshop

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 15:50

If the Walmart employees thought something was untoward, then they had every right to report it. What went wrong here was a lack of common sense in the police department that took up the report.

#11 jren207

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 16:06

Should invest in a photo printer and photo paper, then there's no need to have other people looking through your private photos and jumping to conclusions.

#12 spenser.d

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 16:13

If the Walmart employees thought something was untoward, then they had every right to report it. What went wrong here was a lack of common sense in the police department that took up the report.


This. Not really Wal-Mart's issue that they reported it. It is ridiculous what happened after they reported it.

#13 UseLess

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 16:23

When they take kids away from a reported abusive situation, and the claims are false - EVIL AUTHORITIES WHY DID THEY NOT CHECK FIRST!

When they don't take kids away from a reported abusive situation, and claims are true - EVIL AUTHORITIES NOT ACTING QUICKLY!

...rock and a hard place if you ask me. Having said that tho, I think something did go wrong. I would have imagined that meeting the family, and speaking to the kids first would have been a more appropriate course of action.

#14 Crytel

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 16:31

we should learn from this that you should just never go to walmart whom is against family values in reality.

#15 OP Hum

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Posted 09 March 2013 - 17:35

Wal-mart just should not look at anyone's photos.