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Hill v. CBAC Gaming LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 11, 2019

CBAC GAMING LLC d/b/a The Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, et al.



         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case are the motion for entry of default filed by Dr. Michael Hill (“Plaintiff”), (ECF No. 16), and the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Baltimore Police Department (“Defendant BPD”), (ECF No. 19). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion for entry of default will be denied and the motion to dismiss will be denied in part and granted in part.

         I. Factual Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.

         This case arises out of a gambling dispute at the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. The Horseshoe Casino Baltimore is the business name of Defendant CBAC Gaming LLC (“Defendant CBAC Gaming”). Defendant Caesars Baltimore Management Company, LLC (“Defendant Caesars”) supervises, manages, and operates casinos throughout the United States, including the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. Mr. Thomas Cassella (“Defendant Cassella”) is the Director of Security and Mr. Jermaine Wright (“Defendant Wright”) is the Manager of Security for the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore.

         On March 6, 2016, Plaintiff visited the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore. Plaintiff and another individual, Mr. Stephen McLaurin, were pooling their money and placing bets together. When a casino employee (“the dealer”) began to pay out the winning bets, one casino patron, an unidentified male, did not receive his winnings. The casino patron complained, and the dealer called for assistance. Another casino employee instructed the dealer to pay the last winning pile, which belonged to Mr. McLaurin and Plaintiff. Mr. McLaurin and Plaintiff divided their winnings and Plaintiff went for refreshments. Plaintiff's share totaled $105.

         When Plaintiff returned to the table, an unidentified, uniformed Baltimore Police Department (“BPD”) officer (“BPD Officer A”) approached Plaintiff and instructed Plaintiff to accompany him to an office.[1] BPD Officer A indicated that his superior, later identified as Defendant Wright, instructed him to take Plaintiff to the office. Plaintiff asked “what he had done to justify being detained, and [BPD Officer A] directed Plaintiff to go down a hallway into a back room[.]” (ECF No. 3, at 5 ¶ 18).

         When Plaintiff reached the designated room, he encountered Defendant Wright and a second, unidentified, uniformed BPD Officer (“BPD Officer B”).[2] Defendant Wright requested identification and Plaintiff produced his passport. Defendant Wright “accused Plaintiff of stealing another player[']s money.” (ECF No. 3, at 5 ¶ 22). While Defendant Wright questioned Plaintiff, Plaintiff believed Defendant Wright had the authority to have him arrested based on BPD Officer B's presence and BPD Officer A's identification of Defendant Wright as a superior. Defendant Cassella subsequently entered the room and asked for Plaintiff's version of the events. Defendant Wright, through BPD Officer B, conducted a criminal warrant check on Plaintiff. Defendants Cassella and Wright left the room to review video tape footage, leaving Plaintiff with BPD Officer B. When Defendant Wright returned, he demanded that Plaintiff surrender his winnings and suggested Plaintiff “would have ‘problems'” with BPD Officer B if he did not do so. (Id., at 6 ¶ 29). Plaintiff gave Defendant Wright his winnings.

         Plaintiff asked to review the video tape footage, but Defendants Cassella and Wright refused his request. Plaintiff asked Defendants Cassella and Wright to accompany him to speak to Mr. McLaurin, but they refused. “Plaintiff was directed to go to a larger public room, that had a receptionist, security guard, ” and another BPD officer. (ECF No. 3, at 7 ¶ 32). In the larger room, Plaintiff observed “African American[]s being arrested[] by various Caucasian” BPD officers. (Id.).

         Defendant Wright brought Plaintiff a letter, barring him from the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, and asked Plaintiff to sign it. Plaintiff received a receipt for the money he relinquished to Defendant Wright, despite Defendant Wright's initial refusal to provide one. Defendants Cassella and Wright escorted Plaintiff to an exit, followed by two Caucasian BPD officers. While exiting, they encountered Mr. McLaurin. He attempted to explain the incident and asked that Defendant Wright speak to another couple that was present at the table. Defendant Wright continued to escort Plaintiff to the exit and Plaintiff left the building “around 4:50 a.m., without criminal charges, but with” a barring notice. (ECF No. 3, at 8 ¶ 37).

         II. Procedural Background

         On March 6, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant CBAC Gaming, LLC, Defendant Caesars, Defendant Cassella, and Defendant Wright (collectively, the “Casino Defendants”). (ECF No. 1). The complaint asserted nine causes of action. That same day, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint to add Defendant BPD as a defendant and to assert three additional causes of action. (ECF No. 3).

         III. Motion for Entry of Default

         On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed the presently pending motion for entry of default. (ECF No. 16). Plaintiff contends that Defendant BPD “was served with the [s]ummons and [c]omplaint on May 17, 2019” and failed to file a responsive pleading by the due date - June 7, 2019. (Id., at 1).

         On June 12, 2019, Defendant BPD responded to Plaintiff's motion. (ECF No. 18). Defendant BPD contends that Plaintiff's service was deficient because Plaintiff served the summons and complaint by certified mail return receipt requested and not by certified mail requesting restricted delivery, as required for serving local or state governmental organizations under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(j)(2) and Md. Rule 2-121(a). (Id., at 1-2 ¶¶ 2- 9). Defendant BPD elaborates that Plaintiff did not seek “a waiver of service[.]” (Id., at 2 ¶ 10). Nonetheless, Defendant BPD waived service and filed its motion to dismiss. (Id., at 2).

         Plaintiff did not reply to Defendant BPD's response. The motion for entry of default will be denied. The court need not address Defendant BPD's argument regarding effectuation of service because Plaintiff seemingly concedes it. Moreover, even if Plaintiff did effectuate service properly, Defendant BPD filed its motion to dismiss only five days after the initial due date and there is a “strong policy that cases be decided on their merits[]” within the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993).

         IV. ...

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