PHOENIX (CN) – A married couple who took photos of their daughters in the bathtub sued Wal-Mart, the Arizona Attorney General and the City of Peoria, claiming the state took away their girls and placed them in foster care, and police and an assistant attorney general defamed them to dozens of their friends by saying they had “sexually abused” the girls by taking the photos.
Plaintiffs Lisa and A.J. Demaree say they photographed their daughters in the bathtub while on a family trip to San Diego, then dropped off the camera’s memory stick at a Wal-Mart in Peoria to have the photos developed. The girls were 5, 4, and 1½ at the time.
The Peoria Wal-Mart reported the photos to the Peoria Police Department, said Richard Treon, the family’s attorney.
Of 150 photos on the memory stick, about seven showed the girls “with a towel around and in various portions of nudity,” Treon said.
“The photo policy is a bit of a stretch when it is pictures of your kids,” the attorney said.
Wal-Mart has an “unsuitable print policy” by which it decides “(without telling the customer that it had this policy) whether any photographs supplied by a customer on a computer ‘memory stick’ contained nudity of a minor of any kind and, if so, Wal-Mart would then decide whether to turn those photographs over to the police,” according to the complaint in Maricopa County Court.
The Demarees sued Wal-Mart in one complaint, and sued Arizona, the Arizona Attorney General and the City of Peoria in a second complaint in the same court.
According to the complaint against the state, Wal-Mart reported the photos to the Peoria Police Department, then Arizona Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Hunter “published defamatory remarks to more than 35 family members and friends of plaintiffs, falsely stating that plaintiffs Lisa and A.J. Demaree ‘sexually abused’ their children.”
A Peoria police detective named Krause “made false and defamatory statements to agents and employees of the defendants, medical providers, and others, including, but not limited to, accusations that plaintiffs had sexually abused their children, sexually exploited their children, took pornographic photos of their children, and/or that said parents were engaged in illegal actions by taking bath and play time photos of their children,” according to the complaint against the state.
The state then took the children away from their parents to see if they had been sexually violated; the girls were separated and placed in foster care, Treon said.
“It’s every parent’s nightmare that the state would decide or have a better idea of how you should parent your children,” Treon says. “You would think CPS [Child Protective Services] would have better things to do with their resources.”
The Demarees want people to understand that if they take family photos to Wal-Mart, the store acts “as an agent of the police department by screening their photos,” and turns clerks and managers into censors, Treon said.
The family seeks punitive damages for defamation and outrage.