How much privacy can one expect in a public bathroom? That's one of the questions at hand in the case Padilla vs. The Echo and Echoplex, and Does 1-20, Inclusive, which is set to go to trial on March 17.
On New Year's Eve of 2012, Miranda Padilla, then a 27-year-old substitute teacher from Hesperia, went to Bootie LA at the Echoplex with her sister and some friends. Not long after they rang in the new year, Padilla, who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, went to the restroom. According to legal documents that are public record, Padilla was in the stall when a bathroom attendant allegedly told her to “Get the fuck out!”
Multiple documents filed by Padilla's attorneys, V. James DeSimone, Kunti D. Salazar and Kaveh Navab at Venice-based firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, run through the chain of events for that night. Padilla claims that security proceeded to yell at her, even after she said she was still using the bathroom, and that ultimately, an “usher” at the club maneuvered under the door to open it. Padilla alleges that she hit her head against a tile wall while she was forced out of the stall. Padilla was apparently then dragged through the venue without a chance to pull up her tights and underwear and, according to a January 2015 document, defense witnesses testified that she was “cooperative and calm” during the ordeal.
That's not the end of the story, though. Outside, Padilla was allegedly forced to sit on the ground, still unable to pull up her tights and underwear. Her sister went to see what was wrong, but claims to have been threatened by security. Moreover, the documents also state that Padilla was shoved into a guard rail and beaten by security guards. She was later arrested by LAPD and spent the bulk of the first day of 2013 in jail.
The specific charges against Padilla aren't mentioned in the original complaint and the file for her arrest was sealed in May of 2014, after she was found “factually innocent.” Still, the damage had already been done. Several months earlier, when the plaintiff initially filed the complaint, it was claimed that Padilla's arrest had cost her substitute teaching gigs. Moreover, the December 2013 complaint states that Padilla had suffered long-term consequences, including PTSD, from the New Year's Eve incident. After her release from jail, Padilla did seek medical attention, which confirmed that she had sustained a concussion, among other injuries.
Ultimately, Padilla vs. The Echo and Echoplex, and Does 1-20, Inclusive is a civil rights case. (The Does, as in John and Jane, refer to the security company and individual guards.) In the initial complaint, plaintiff attorneys have argued that their client's constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure, as well as her right to free speech, were violated. Her attorneys also argue that by forcing Padilla, who had already been diagnosed with IBS, out of the bathroom, Echoplex security violated a California Civil Code that protects people with disabilities.
Then there's the privacy issue. According to the public records, Padilla's attorneys argued in late January of this year that, “Ms. Padilla had a privacy interest in using the restroom and a reasonable expectation of privacy while occupying a restroom stall.” Previously, defense had argued that Padilla did not have an “expectation of privacy” in the bathroom.
Padilla's attorneys have told L.A. Weekly that they are “seeking justice” for their client with the hope that others can “avoid this invasion of privacy happening again in any public restroom.” Attorneys for the defense, Glendale firm Bradley & Gmelich, have not responded to requests for comment.