A woman who was raped at a Leesburg 7-Eleven store in September has filed a lawsuit against 7-Eleven Inc. for allowing her to work alone on the overnight shift.
The lawsuit, which also names store manager Luther Lanham and the alleged attacker as defendants, contends that Lanham jeopardized the then-clerk's safety by telling her to keep the store open even though the second employee scheduled to work the shift had not arrived.
According to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Loudoun Count Circuit Court, 7-Eleven had a policy requiring workers to "cease business activities and lock the doors if an employee was left to work by themselves during late-evening and early morning hours."
Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc., declined to comment on the lawsuit last week. In an interview at the time of the incident, she said the company's stores generally have two employees on duty during the overnight shift. However, she said, the company does not have a policy requiring that a store must be closed if only one worker is present.
The 44-year-old woman was working in the Plaza Street store Sept. 13 when she learned about 11 p.m. that her co-worker would not be coming in, according to the lawsuit. A short time later, the suit says, she phoned Lanham, who told her that she should keep the store open and that he would come work with her.
According to Leesburg police, the woman was still working alone when her attacker walked into the store about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 14. At first, the man walked around as if he were shopping, but then he threatened the clerk with a screwdriver and demanded money, according to police and prosecutors.
Police said the woman handed over an undisclosed amount of cash before the man raped her. Before fleeing, the man hit the woman on the head with a television, police said.
According to the lawsuit, Lanham arrived at the store about 2 a.m. When contacted at the 7-Eleven store, he declined to comment on the lawsuit and referred calls to company officials.
Chabris has said that a second employee had been scheduled to work at the Plaza Street store. But she said that employee had worked an earlier shift at a Purcellville 7-Eleven and had to stay there because another employee failed to show up for the next shift.
Convenience stores and other retail outlets across the county have "Now Hiring" signs posted prominently in windows, and the boom in commercial development--including the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets and the Dulles Town Center malls--has created fierce competition for enough workers to fill all shifts.
Shortly after the assault, police charged Marcus L. Simms, 22, of no fixed address, with rape, armed robbery, forcible sodomy, object sexual penetration and malicious wounding. He is being held at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center awaiting trial.
The lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages from Simms. It also seeks $20 million from Lanham and $20 million from 7-Eleven Inc.