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Hodge v. The Cordish Companies Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 14, 2017




         Harold Hodge, Jr., the self-represented plaintiff, filed suit on January 27, 2017, against a host of corporate and individual defendants. ECF 1. As set forth by Hodge, the defendants are as follows (with abbreviations supplied by the Court): The Cordish Companies Inc. (“Cordish Cos.”); Entertainment Consulting International (“ECI”); PPE Casino Resort Maryland LLC (“PPE”); Maryland Live Casino (“MLC”); David S. Cordish; Reed Cordish; Jonathan A. Cordish; Chase Martin; Joseph Weinberg; Robert J. Norton; Douglas Shipley; and “John Doe, ” a Security Guard at MLC. Id. Hodge appended several exhibits to the Complaint. ECF 1-1 to ECF 1-8.

         With leave of court (ECF 20), Hodge subsequently filed an Amended Complaint. ECF 21.[1] Exhibits to the Amended Complaint are docketed at ECF 25-1 to 25-4. Plaintiff's federal claims are based on 42 U.S.C. § 2000a, providing federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The remaining claims are predicated on the Court's supplemental jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

         Hodge's suit arises out of an allegedly illegal search of his “purse” by an unidentified security guard at the Maryland Live! Casino on January 2, 2017. The alleged search occurred when Hodge and his wife attempted to enter the Casino's game rooms. ECF 21, ¶¶ 37-47. Plaintiff asserts that “because he was a black male with a fur hat on, ” he was regarded “as a thug, pimp or just a trouble-maker” and was “targeted” for a search, without justification. Id. ¶ 4; see also Id. ¶ 42. According to plaintiff, “'white' and Hispanics [sic] female customers” were permitted to enter the casino without a search, even when their purses were larger than Mr. Hodge's “purse.” Id. ¶ 1; see also Id. ¶ 42. Hodge seeks $82 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Id. ¶ 92.

         The Amended Complaint contains six causes of action, which I shall identify as counts. In Count I, Hodge claims race discrimination, in a place of public accommodation, in violation of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a, et seq. (“Title II”). Count II alleges discrimination based on gender, in a place of public accommodation, in violation of Title II. In Count III and Count IV, plaintiff alleges race discrimination and sex discrimination, respectively, each in violation of Md. Code (2015 Repl. Vol., 2016 Supp.), § 20-304 of the State Government Article (“S.G.”). Count V alleges common law assault and Count VI alleges “trespassing-intrusion.” See ECF 21.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). ECF 23. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 23-1) (collectively, “Motion”) and an exhibit. ECF 23-2. According to defendants, dismissal is appropriate because, inter alia, Hodge has failed to state a claim as to the individual defendants (ECF 21-1 at 2) and because Hodge is not entitled to damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. at 3. Defendants also maintain that there is no private right of action under S.G. § 20-304. Id. Hodge opposes the Motion (ECF 26) (“Opposition”) and defendants have replied. ECF 27 (“Reply”).

         In addition, defendants have filed a Motion to Strike (ECF 22), claiming that many of Hodge's allegations and submissions in the Amended Complaint “bear no reasonable relation to the controversy at issue here” (id. ¶ 11) and “are nothing more than an attempt to smear the names of Defendants in a public forum and introduce inadmissible evidence.” Id. ¶ 16. Hodge has responded in opposition to the motion to strike (ECF 26) and defendants have replied. ECF 28.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See Local Rule 105.6. The Court is mindful of its obligation to construe liberally the pleadings of a pro se litigant, which are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989). Nevertheless, for the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion, with leave to amend, and deny the Motion to Strike, as moot.

         I. Factual Background[2]

         On January 2, 2017, Hodge and his wife “decided to 'paint the town' a little and go to Maryland Live Casino for the very first time.” ECF 21, ¶ 41 (emphasis in original). Hodge was carrying a black “purse” that was “about the size of 9” x 3” x 9”.” Id. ¶ 37b.[3] Hodge was wearing the purse “around his neck on his shoulder.” Id. Ms. Hodge was also carrying a “purse”. Id. According to plaintiff, he was dressed “in fine décor, ” including a suit. Id. ¶ 44.

         While the Hodges were in the lobby of the casino, they were “approached and stopped” by an unidentified MLC security guard. Id. ¶ 37a. The security guard informed Hodge that he would not be permitted to enter the game floor until he opened his “purse.” Id. ¶ 36. The Hodges began to open their purses, but the security guard allegedly told Ms. Hodge that she did not have to open her purse “because Maryland Live Casino did not check women [sic] purses or belongings.” Id. ¶ 39.

         According to Hodge, he “feared” that he would not be permitted to enter the casino if he did not open his purse. Id. ¶ 41. He asserts: “Mr. Hodge had a few zippers on his black purse and he was opening against his will the last one. Immedeately [sic], the (MLC) John Doe Secuirty [sic] out of nowhere [leaped] reach [sic] towards Mr. Hodge and began to try to force his purse open.” Id. ¶ 40 (emphasis in original). The purse was opened “without permission or justification” (id. ¶ 41), and the occurrence was “extremely embarrassing” to the Hodges. Id. ¶ 43.

         Hodge was allowed to enter the game rooms after the security guard completed the search. Id. ¶ 44. The Hodges “played a few games in one of the game rooms” and then left the casino. Id. ¶ 47.

         Plaintiff contends that defendants “are using the discriminatory purse check of only black men as and [sic] deterrent in the hope they will . . . turn around and . . . go back out the door . . . .” ECF 21, ¶ 42. With respect to the claims lodged against the individual defendants, plaintiff merely asserts that they “knew or should have known” of the illegal actions of their staff. See, e.g., ECF 21, ¶¶ 56, 57, 58, 59. The Complaint also lists other cases (without reference to case numbers or courts) in which claims of race discrimination were allegedly posited; plaintiff contends that those cases were settled by “The Cordish Companies Inc. and (ECI) LLC ” ECF 21 at 9.

         II. Standard of Review

         A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom. McBurney v. Young, __U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 1709 (2013); Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It provides that a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

         To survive a motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not countenance dismissal of ...

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