An Arizona couple awaits an appeals court ruling that could end a long battle against Walmart over bath-time photographs of their daughters, ABC News reports.
Lisa and Anthony Demaree of Peoria, Ariz., sued the retailer for allegedly concealing its photo-disclosure policy after a Walmart developer turned their images over to police as possible child pornography. The pictures were of the pair's then 5-, 4- and 1-year-old daughters taking a bath while on vacation in 2008.
Although a judge would later rule the pictures were harmless, the Demarees' said their lives spiraled. They lost custody of their kids for a month and were entered into a sex offenders' registry, the station reports. Lisa Demaree lost her teaching job for a while, ABC noted in an earlier report.
According to Courthouse News Service, the Demarees filed their suit against Walmart in 2009, claiming the chain did not disclose its procedure for processing pictures of minors. The store was legally bound to let customers know the images could be submitted to authorities, the lawsuit stated, but there was no notice posted in the store.
A federal judge decided in favor of Walmart, ruling that Arizona granted protections to employees from being sued if they report potential child abuse. The Demarees appealed.
The 9th Circuit heard arguments in the case on Wednesday in Tucson. The Demarees' attorney, Richard Treon, reiterated that the photos were innocent in the first place and that Walmart failed to prominently display its policy about possibly sensitive photos, Courthouse News noted. (However, Walmart does have the policy on its website, the New York Daily News pointed out.)
Walmart's attorney, Lawrence Kasten, said the case might discourage workers who suspect child abuse from coming forward for fear that their employer might have to spend big money on legal costs.
In an email to The Huffington Post Tuesday, a Walmart representative said: "Given state law, we believe our associates acted appropriately in notifying authorities, who then decided whether to investigate, and the trial court agreed in dismissing the case. The lower court appropriately interpreted the law and we urged the Court of Appeals to affirm that decision.”
No word on when a decision will be issued.
In 2009, Lisa Demaree told ABC's "Good Morning America" how much the case over the bath photos had already cost her family.
"As crazy as it may seem, what you may think are the most beautiful innocent pictures of your children may be seen as something completely different and completely perverted," she said at the time.
In a somewhat similar case reported by Associated Press, a college football coach in Minnesota was charged in August with having child pornography on his cell phone, but was cleared in November when a judge determined that the images were innocent snippets of his children goofing off after a bath.