Class Balks at Coffee Bean Chain's Toilet Spy
LOS ANGELES (CN) - A coffee shop staged a failed cover-up after a lawyer planted spy cameras in its restrooms, a class of customers claim in court.
Lead plaintiff Roderick Smith says he discovered a spy camera in the restroom of a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Encino last year, and that personal injury attorney Mark Daniel Wenzel planted another camera a week later.
Corporate owner International Coffee & Tea LLC failed to "proactively prevent" this spying, according to the complaint in Superior Court.
"Plaintiff frequented this Encino Coffee Bean location to work on personal projects, and would therefore stay there for extended hours at a time to complete his work," Smith says. "In or around October of 2011, plaintiff used defendant Coffee Bean's restroom to attend to his personal and private needs. While using the toilet, plaintiff noticed a blue blinking light which led, him to discover a small device, the size of a syringe, nestled into the u-bend of the pipes underneath the sink. The device was pointed directly at the toilet and the blue blinking light had emanated from the device."
After Googling the device, Smith found out it was a spy cam, reported his discovery to Coffee Bean, which called the police, according to the lawsuit.
"Within one week of discovering that he had been secretly videotaped by a recording device in defendant Coffee Bean's restroom, and having immediately alerted and notified defendant Coffee Bean's management, plaintiff made a second startling and equally disturbing discovery at the same Coffee Bean location," Smith says. "Upon using the restroom for his personal and private needs, plaintiff yet again discovered another recording device in the same restroom at the same coffee shop, aimed directly at the toilet and on information and belief was used for the purpose of secretly recording Coffee Bean patrons while using the toilet, from underneath the sink."
Detectives allegedly identified Wenzel as the culprit because the spy cam's own footage captured him during the installation process.
"The police sent pictures of defendant Wenzel to all the Coffee Bean shops in the area, and weeks later, in or about November of 2011, defendant Wenzel was apprehended by the police on a visit to the Coffee Bean located at the intersection of Woodley and Ventura at 16101 Ventura Boulevard in Encino, California, where another hidden recording device was also uncovered," the complaint says.
Meanwhile Coffee Bean superiors allegedly told staff to keep the incident to themselves.
"The cover up administered by defendant Coffee Bean's corporate level went so for as to instruct the Coffee Bean location where the camera/recording devices were discovered to take down defendant Wenzel's mug shot which had been installed by the police department, before he had been arrested," according to the 15-page complaint.
A personal injury attorney and partner at Encino law firm Stone, Dolginer & Wenzel, Wenzel was later banned from stepping within 100 yards of all Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf coffee shops, sentenced to 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, Smith says.
Wenzel has also allegedly been barred from using any recording device aside from his cellphone.
The class seeks punitive damages and an injunction for invasion of privacy, negligence, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
It is represented by Lina Melidonian with Kabatack Brown Kellner.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf did not immediately respond to a request for comment.