A woman raped by a co-worker at a High's convenience store in Columbia filed a $60 million civil lawsuit against the chain last week, claiming that company officials knew the man posed a threat but did not take action.
The suit filed June 21 in Howard Circuit Court contends that High's management knew that Riaz Ahmed Alvi -- convicted of rape three months ago as a result of the incident -- earlier had made "sexually suggestive comments and overtures" to other employees.
High's is negligent for failing to conduct a proper background check before hiring Alvi and take appropriate steps to protect other employees, particularly the 19-year-old rape victim, the suit says.
"High's was made aware of indicators of Alvi's lack of suitability, ignored that information and failed to properly deal with the circumstances," the suit says. "A reasonable and prudent employer would not have ignored the indicators of Alvi's unfitness."
Officials at High's did not return telephone calls yesterday to corporate headquarters in Baltimore.
In addition to the company, the woman's suit names Alvi as a defendant. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison two weeks ago, three months after his conviction on charges of second-degree rape and battery.
Alvi, a 34-year-old native of Pakistan, may be deported because of his conviction. He moved to the United States about four months before the incident.
The civil suit is one of many filed nationwide by victims or their relatives against those charged with committing a crime against them. For example, the father of Nicole Brown Simpson has filed a lawsuit against her accused killer, O.J. Simpson, seeking unspecified damages.
In Howard County, a Hanover woman received an undisclosed amount of money earlier this month, after settling her lawsuit against a fitness center where she was sexually assaulted by a trainer who had pleaded guilty to criminal charges for the incident.
In the Alvi case, the incident occurred at High's store at the King's Contrivance Village Center shortly after it closed on June 22, 1994. Alvi had been assigned to help the woman close the store, since it was her second day at work at the shop.
Alvi's "conduct was intentional, reckless, dangerous, extreme and beyond the bounds of decency," the lawsuit says. "By reason of the defendant's conduct, [the victim] has suffered and will continue to suffer, severe and emotional distress."
A prosecutor noted at Alvi's sentencing hearing that the victim is so distraught over the incident that she could not attend the proceedings.
The victim requested a jury trial for her lawsuit.
No proceedings have been scheduled.