7th Circuit affirms summary judgment to casino employees

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment for two security agents at a northern Indiana casino, finding the plaintiff’s argument that she never received a copy of the motion for summary judgment unpersuasive.

In Lois Marie Trask v. Edgar Rodriguez, et al., 14-2601, Lois Trask was gambling at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond when she discovered a $20 bill on the floor and picked it up. Security footage later revealed that a man who had been standing behind Trask had dropped the bill while at the changing machine.

When the man discovered his loss, he contacted casino personnel, who reviewed the security footage, saw Trask picking up the money and confronted her. Trask repeated multiple times that she picked up the money thinking it was her own cash that she had dropped. In a Thursday opinion, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner wrote that it is impossible to tell from the security footage whether Trask had seen the man drop the money or if she knew he was standing behind her.

Trask began calling her friends to ask if they had $20 they could bring to her, but after 10 minutes of being on the phone an agent told her to put the phone away and follow him to the security office. When Trask ignored him, the agent grabbed the phone and pulled her by the coat sleeve until she began walking.

The agents then seized Trask’s license and $13 she found in her purse and car. The security officers told Trask she was banned from the casino and would be arrested if she tried to return, then released her after 70 minutes.

A year later, Trask filed a pro se suit against the casino, its security supervisor and the two agents who had detained her, alleging that she had been detained without cause and that the agents had used excessive force and violated her Fourth Amendment rights. However, following her deposition, Trask called the casino’s counsel and offered to settle if she received meal vouchers and access to the casino.

Counsel offered Trask $100, which she initially accepted but then rejected, prompting counsel to offer an additional $150. Trask again declined the monetary offer, so the defendants asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to enforce the settlement, which Judge Rudy Lozano agreed to do. The judge also dismissed Trask’s claims against the casino and security supervisor.

The security agents then moved for summary judgment, but Trask never responded to the motion, even after a warning from the judge. The district court granted the defendants’ motion, prompting Trask to move to set aside judgment on the grounds that she never received the motion for summary judgment. Lozano rejected that argument, prompting Trask’s appeal.

Trask argued that the district court should have granted her Rule 60(b) motion and reopened the proceeding after she claimed to have never received the motion for summary judgment. But the 7th Circuit panel rejected Trask’s argument, with Posner writing that “if…she didn’t have a copy of the agents’ motion, she should have called defense counsel and asked for another.”

The 7th Circuit also rejected Trask’s argument that the district court judge had erred in enforcing the settlement and that a magistrate judge should not have been allowed to rule on pretrial disputes.

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