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White Marlin Open, Inc. v. Heasley

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 24, 2017

WHITE MARLIN OPEN, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,


          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Mark Hutchison (“Hutchison”) and Richard Kosztyu (“Kosztyu”) (collectively, “plaintiffs”) have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (“Plaintiffs' Motion”) in this interpleader action based on defendant Philip Heasley's (“Heasley”) alleged failure to pass a polygraph examination under the 2016 White Marlin Open Tournament Rules (the “Tournament Rules”).[1] (ECF No. 97.) Plaintiffs argue that because Heasley failed to pass a polygraph examination, he “is unable to satisfy his burden of proof in order to recover the prize money…” (ECF No. 97-1 at 2.) Thus, plaintiffs assert, the prize money should be distributed among the other winning anglers in the manner set forth in the Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 87.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary.[2] See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2016.) For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion (ECF No. 97) is DENIED. This case shall proceed to a bench trial beginning on May 22, 2017.


         The relevant factual background is set forth in this Court's Memorandum Opinion dated February 3, 2017 (ECF No. 70) and subsequent Memorandum Orders dated March 29, 2017 (ECF No. 94) and April 14, 2017 (ECF No. 99).[3] These Memoranda are incorporated herein by reference.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A genuine issue over a material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. When considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's function is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Id. at 249.

         In undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718 F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). This Court “must not weigh evidence or make credibility determinations.” Foster v. University of Md.-Eastern Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007)); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015) (explaining that the trial court may not make credibility determinations at the summary judgment stage). Indeed, it is the function of the fact-finder to resolve factual disputes, including issues of witness credibility. See Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866-68 (2014).


         It is undisputed that the 2016 White Marlin Open Tournament Rules created a contract between plaintiff White Marlin Open (“WMO”) and the tournament participants, including defendant Heasley and the other “angler” plaintiffs. (ECF No. 100 at 25; ECF No. 97-1 at 10.) See generally Schmidt v. Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce, 142 Wis.2d 936, 417 N.W.2d 196 (Wisc. Ct. App. 1987) (fishing tournament entry form and rules constitute enforceable contract among the parties). The Tournament Rules provide, in pertinent part, that:

“7. All anglers winning $50, 000 or more…may be required, at the discretion of the White Marlin Open, to take and pass, at the determination of the test administrator, a polygraph test prior to the distribution of any awards.
7a. The White Marlin Open may, at its discretion, also request that a polygraph test be taken by any other angler or crew member registered to that boat.
7b. The time and place of the polygraph testing will be announced at the Captain's meeting and listed on the Tournament Information Sheet which is distributed with the boat packets.
7c. in the event that a test cannot be taken at a scheduled time, tournament officials reserve the right to reschedule the test with in [sic] 30 days of the date on which the fish was caught. The rescheduled test must be administered by a White Marlin Open approved examiner administered to ASTM standards and will be at the angler's expense.
7d. If an angler wishes to dispute an unfavorable polygraph result, the angler may have a second polygraph conducted with in [sic] 10 days by a qualified polygraph examiner at the angler's expense. This polygraph must be administered to ASTM standards. The decision as to which of the two polygraph tests will be used to determine prize money ...

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