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Archive for Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Lawsuit against Wal-Mart rejected

Judge says Salina store right to notify police of nude child photos

October 22, 2003

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— A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a woman who was questioned by police after she had photographs of her naked 3-year-old daughter developed at a Wal-Mart store.

Tamie Dragone, of Lincoln, Kan., had sought more than $260,000 from the retail giant. In her lawsuit, filed in October 2002, Dragone claimed she was humiliated and detained unwillingly as a result of the unfounded allegation after she dropped off the film for processing at Salina's Wal-Mart store Sept. 3, 2002.

Dragone was never charged with any crime.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart contended -- and Saline County District Judge Jerome Hellmer agreed -- that store employees acted correctly in turning the photographs over to police.

Hellmer's written decision dismissing Wal-Mart from the lawsuit was filed Friday. Last month, the city and the Salina Police Department were dismissed from the lawsuit.

"Public policy is to encourage, not discourage, reporting of suspected sexual abuse of children," Hellmer wrote, citing the Kansas Code for Care of Children.

That law covers reporting of suspected abuse or neglect of children, and gives immunity to those who make such reports in good faith.

"There just wasn't any evidence that Wal-Mart employees had any malice or ill will toward Mrs. Dragone," said Mickey Mosier, an attorney for Wal-Mart.

Six Wal-Mart employees looked at Dragone's photographs, which showed her daughter playing topless with her father in the family's backyard swimming pool and lying on a rug with her bare bottom showing.

All six employees concluded the police should be called to review the photos, particularly because it wasn't clear that the man in the pool was wearing swim trunks.

Dragone said later that her husband had been wearing khaki-colored trunks that later were destroyed by the family dog. Dragone was detained for questioning at the store for about 30 minutes.

Saline County Atty. Ellen Mitchell reviewed the photos and declined to bring charges.

Dragone's attorney, Tom Boone, argued that immunity should apply only to cases where an injury is suspected because of child abuse.

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