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CASWELL v. BJ'S WHOLESALE CO.

May 18, 1998

JENNIFER CASWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
BJ'S WHOLESALE COMPANY and QUALEX, INC., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAN ANTWERPEN

OPINION AND ORDER

 Van Antwerpen, J.

 May 18, 1998

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff has accused the Defendants of conspiring with the state police to violate her civil rights by turning over nine rolls of developed film to the state police and notifying that agency of the potential abuse of an infant pictured in some of those photographs. Though Plaintiff's complaint is poorly drafted, it appears that she is bringing federal claims for conspiracy to violate her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, along with state claims of false imprisonment, failure to return bailed property, theft, gross negligence, and violation of Article 1, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted and Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.

 II. FACTS

 On October 20, 1997, Plaintiff took nine rolls of film to an outlet operated by Defendant Qualex (a photo processing lab) located on the premises of Defendant BJ's Wholesale Club in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She brought the film to the Defendants to be developed and printed.

 The Plaintiff's film was developed by two Qualex employees: Christina Palumbo and Kathy Bauder. The employees noticed that the first couple of rolls contained pictures of a naked adult female engaged in various sexually explicit acts, some with a dildo. As they continued to develop the film, they found (on a later roll) photos of an adult male with his tongue in an infant's ear, an adult male kissing the infant on her mouth (with adult's tongue possibly inserted inside the baby's mouth), the infant with what appears to be a lit cigarette in her mouth, and the infant, naked, with her legs spread and her genitals exposed. Some of the pictures revealed what appeared to be bright red spots on the child's genitals, as well as on other parts of her body. See Palumbo Aff. at 1-2 (Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendants' Memorandum "), Ex C); Bauder Aff. at 1-2 (Defendants' Memorandum, Ex. D); Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Memorandum "), Ex. D. *fn1"

 Ms. Palumbo became disturbed by the photos of the child. According to her affidavit, Ms. Palumbo "believed that the child was being harmed and used by adults for their sexual pleasure." Palumbo Aff. at 2. She insisted that the store notify the police about the contents of the photographs. Before calling the police, Ms. Palumbo and Ms. Bauder showed the pictures to BJ's on-duty manager and also described the photos (over the phone) to the manager of Qualex, Inc. Both managers instructed the employees to contact the Pennsylvania State Police. The employees called the police and described the pictures to them. Trooper Timothy Mills was sent to investigate the report. After reviewing the photos, Trooper Mills confiscated all nine rolls of film.

 The Plaintiff returned to the store to pick up her developed film and prints that same day. When she asked for her pictures, an employee working at the photo processing booth told her that there was a problem with her film and that the store manager needed to speak with her. See Caswell Dep. 2/27/98 (Defendants' Memorandum, Ex. A) at 42-43. According to the Plaintiff, two male managers told her to accompany them to a room in the back of the store. The managers then explained to the Plaintiff that they called the state police regarding the pictures. The managers spoke to the Plaintiff in the back room for ten minutes. The door to the room was open the entire time, though one of the managers, according to the Plaintiff, stood in front of the door. After ten minutes, the Plaintiff told the managers that she had to move her car from a no parking zone. She got up and exited the room by walking around the manager. At no point did either of the managers lay hands on the Plaintiff. There is no evidence that either of the managers threatened the Plaintiff while she was in the room. Id. at 46-48.

 The managers followed the Plaintiff out of the store. As the Plaintiff approached her car a state trooper arrived. The Trooper told the Plaintiff that she need not bother moving her car. The Plaintiff called her attorney and then stood and argued with three state troopers for about half an hour. Finally, the Plaintiff told the troopers that she had to leave and a Trooper gave her the card of a criminal investigator who they told her she should see the next day. Id. at 48-50.

 The following day Plaintiff visited a criminal investigator at the state troopers' barracks. At no point was she ever confined and she was told that she was free to leave at any time. Id. at 57. Plaintiff told the police that she took the nude pictures of the adult woman in order to help her friend get into the adult entertainment business. Plaintiff further told the police that the pictures of the infant's genitals were taken in order to document the baby's rash to verify possible child abuse by a babysitter. Pennsylvania State Police Incident Report (Defendants' Memorandum, Ex. E) at 4. Plaintiff explained that the other pictures of the child, including the one where the infant appeared to be smoking a lit cigarette, were just funny family pictures. Id. ; Caswell Dep. 2/27/97 at 27-31.

 After investigation by the state police, the Lehigh Valley District Attorney's office declined prosecution calling this incident a de minimus infraction. Pennsylvania State Police Incident Report at 6. The state trooper returned the film to the photo store. The plaintiff picked up the pictures.

 Plaintiff suggests that she believes that the reason the Defendants' employees reported the pictures to the police was to harass her. Plaintiff was involved in a lawsuit with BJ's over some chairs that she purchased there. Caswell Dep. 2/27/98 at 61. And Plaintiff feels that the employees at BJ's generally treat her badly and give her dirty looks. Id. at 63-64. However, Plaintiff admits that she had never seen any of the people at the photo booth involved in this incident before that day and that they probably did not know her. Plaintiff also admits that she does not know the managers involved in this incident who asked her to accompany them to the room in the back of the store. And, when Plaintiff was first asked why the employees may have wanted to harass her, she responded that she had no idea. Id. at 55-56.

 In her own words, the Plaintiff has brought this suit because they stole my pictures. There is no sign in fucking Qualex or BJ's that said, you know, that they steal pictures. You're supposed to get the fucking pictures developed and thats it. I mean, this is bullshit . . . . [The store] fucking detained me there. They made me look like an asshole. They humiliated me in front of all these people at the store. They had me waste my time to go and talk to them. They stole my pictures. They--they ruined my trust agreement with Jennifer Cole. They ...


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