It took a Spokane jury about an hour today to decide in favor of Rosauers Supermarkets in a lawsuit brought by a family who claimed their 11-year-old daughter was unlawfully detained by employees of the grocery store chain who accused her of being a prostitute.
The incident in question occurred on July 3, 2006, at the Rosauers at 10618 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley. Both sides agreed that employees briefly detained the girl after she had spoken to two or three older men. But what was said and how store employees reacted resulted in two divergent stories.
Russell Van Camp, attorney for the girl’s family, asked the jury to award the family $1 million for the girl’s emotional suffering. Or, at the very least, the jury should force the store chain to give the family $100,000 to pay for the girl’s college education, he said.
Van Camp alleged that Rosauers employees falsely imprisoned the girl, caused her emotional distress and assaulted her when a store security officer grabbed her and took her upstairs to a security room.
But Rosauers attorney Mick McFarland told the jury the claims could not be further from the truth. He argued that employees never accused the girl of being a prostitute, only that she was eliciting information from older men, which is not allowed in stores.
McFarland said the security officer — who was a retired police officer — simply responded after an adult male customer approached a store employee and said he was uncomfortable with a conversation he had had with the girl.
After the security officer approached her, the girl first said she was 21 and later then promised that she was really 18. Only after Spokane Valley Police and the girl’s mother arrived did employees learn she was actually 11.
“This case is not and never has been about that (the girl) was prostituting in Rosauers. The reason she was stopped was she was contacting older men and obtaining information,” McFarland said. The prostitution accusation was “an inflammatory claim by Mr. Van Camp trying to arouse emotions.”
Van Camp told the jury that McFarland was using the octopus defense: inject a cloud of ink and scurry into the darkness.
Once employees learned the girl was 11 “they all realized a serious error had been committed here,” Van Camp said. “It was unjustified, with no probable cause to detain her by herself away from her aunt. They didn’t have to take her upstairs by force.”