Artesia Hotel Learns the Price of Failing to Block In-Room Porn
Children Looking for Nickelodeon Stumble on Hardcore Channel
Posted Oct 14th, 2007 06:19 PM by Mark Kernes
– After a two-week trial, a jury on Friday awarded a Tennessee woman $85,000 after the hotel into which she had checked with her two minor daughters allowed the kids to see sexually explicit videos on the hotel's in-room cable system.
Edwina McCombs, who had been taking her girls, 8 and 9, to visit their father in southern California, checked into the Value Lodge at 11854 Artesia Blvd. in Artesia on August 6, 2006, placed the girls in front of the room's TV, tuned to the Disney Channel, and went into the bathroom for a shower.
Shortly thereafter, however, one of the girls knocked on the bathroom door, saying, "Mommy, something's wrong." Mrs. McCombs opened the door to find that the girls had managed to tune to the TV's porn channel, allegedly while trying to find Nickelodeon, and were seeing "hard-core pornography with close-up images of people engaged in sodomy and homosexual acts," according to one of the woman's attorneys, Leejanice Toback of the Long Beach-based firm Jarvis and Krieger.
Mrs. McCombs promptly unplugged the TV set, and she and the girls checked out the following morning. She filed suit later that same month.
During the trial, before Judge William Birney Jr., the plaintiffs presented testimony from hotel expert Alan Snyder, who testified that in his 30 years' experience, he had never seen a family hotel where some affirmative action was not necessary in order to access adult material. Although the motel claimed that there were signs warning the patrons that the adult channel could be turned off by the front desk, testimony by Mrs. McCombs, Snyder and a private investigator hired by plaintiff attorneys attested that there were no such signs, and post-verdict interviews with the jury indicated that no one believed that the signs existed.
The motel was sold shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but even under the new ownership, there are reportedly still no signs informing guests that the adult channel can be blocked.
However, said Kefu Wei, an employee of Value Lodge, "When we see kids, we will warn (parents) about the channels."
The plaintiffs also presented Dr. Michael Perrotti, a child psychologist, who described the harm that exposure to pornographic images can have on some young children. Experts on sex education have noted that even 8 or 9 years old is not too early to begin educating children on sexual subjects. Such education might have prevented the girls' reported adverse reactions from seeing the hardcore images.
Dr. Perrotti testified that the girls will need continuing psychological treatment, possibly for as long as two years.
Mrs. McCombs, who had to mortgage her house to pay the expenses of the lawsuit, was awarded $65,000 for economic losses, and the youngest daughter was awarded $20,000 to pay for her continuing treatment.
"She wasn't as concerned about the money as she was in making a point," said Scott J. Jarvis, one of Mrs. McCombs' attorneys.