Customers of leading coffee house chain Starbucks have been left astonished as a five-year-old girl recently discovered a hidden camera in one of the branch's bathrooms.
The young girl’s family is now suing the popular coffee chain for damages after she and her father were taped while using the toilet at the Starbucks on the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.
Virginia native William Yockey and his family were spending the day as D.C. tourists when his daughter noticed a video camera hidden underneath the sink that was pointed towards the toilet inside Starbucks.
After pointing it out to her dad, Yockey figured out that the camera was on and rolling and notified authorities.
D.C. Superior Court will hear the lawsuit, which includes claims of embarrassment, emotional distress and continued pain and suffering. The civil suit calls for $1 million.
"Myself, I can't go to a public restroom without giving it a thorough scan," Yockey said. "My daughter is 5, it's embarrassing that she has to look for a camera before she uses the bathroom."
According to court records, Starbucks made an attempt to dismiss the suit. However, the request was overturned. Pretrial dates have been set.
According to court documents, the camera was a small, Coby brand digital video camera, planted in the U-shaped drainpipe with the lens of the digital camera pointed towards the toilet.
“Our store partners took swift action as soon as they became aware of the issue - immediately alerting the police department and assisting in the investigation,' said Starbucks spokesperson Alan Hilowitz in a statement.
This case is not the first “peeping Tom” incident for the iconic coffee brand. In May, 25 year-old William Zafra Velasco was charged with filming 45 women and children inside a California Starbucks. Velasco was charged with the felony crime of secretly videotaping victims for sexual gratification.
Connecticut and Florida Starbucks branches also received voyeuristic complaints. But this hidden camera case is different as very little is known about the camera’s origins. Details such as who put it there and when are also unknown. Theoretically, the lawsuit could be opened up to include anyone else who used the restroom at that particular Starbucks location.
Hilowitz said, “We continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement on this matter; however, because there is pending litigation, we cannot comment on the specifics of this case. However, we can tell you that as a part of regular store operations, we monitor the seating areas and rest rooms in our stores on a regular basis to identify potential safety or security concerns."