Suit Alleges Spy Cam in Starbucks Bathroom

Monday, Sep 19, 2011  |  Updated 8:25 PM EDT
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A $1 million lawsuit was filed against Starbucks by the family of a 5-year-old girl who discovered a video camera hidden in a restroom at a DC store.

A $1 million lawsuit was filed against Starbucks by the family of a 5-year-old girl who discovered a video camera hidden in a restroom at a DC store.

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A Virginia man says when his daughter used the bathroom at the Starbucks in Penn Quarter, she discovered a hidden camera pointed at the toilet.

Washington City Paper’s Lydia DePillis first reported the civil suit filed by Norfolk resident William Yockey against the Starbucks coffee location at 7th Street Northwest, blocks from the National Mall.

Yockey told News4 he was sightseeing with his family on April 23 when they stopped in the Starbucks coffee shop.  Yockey said one of the two unisex bathrooms was closed, so he used the other unisex bathroom.  His daughter also used the same bathroom.

While washing her hands, Yockey said his daughter turned to him and said "Daddy, there's a camera."

According to court documents, the camera was a small, Coby brand digital video camera, planted in the U-shaped drainpipe.  The lens of the digital camera was pointed towards the toilet, he said. 

Yockey said the camera was still on when he pulled it from beneath the sink and brought it to the coffee shop's manager to confront her.  He said the manager appeared surprised, and called the police to investigate.  Yockey said while they were waiting for officers to arrive, the Starbucks manager offered him a cup of coffee.

According to documents, after D.C. police arrived, the bathroom was roped off, and the camera was taken as evidence in a criminal investigation.

Yockey wants $1 million in the civil suit on four counts, including invasion of privacy and emotional distress.

"Myself, I can't go to a public restroom without giving it a thorough scan," Yockey told News4.  "My daughter is 5, it's embarrassing that she has to look for a camera before she uses the bathroom."

Starbucks released the following statement on the incident:

"We take our obligation to provide a safe environment for our customers and partners (employees) very seriously. 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. 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."

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