Miller v. Lewis

Decision Date09 August 2005
Docket NumberNo. 03 C 0297.,03 C 0297.
Citation381 F.Supp.2d 773
PartiesRonald MILLER, Plaintiff, v. Special Agent Chris LEWIS, Individually, and Harrah's Illinois Corporation, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Gregory E. Kulis, Kathleen Coyne Ropka, Shehnaz I. Mansuri, Gregory E. Kulis and Associates, Ltd., Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff.

Janet M. Fasano, Illinois Attorney General, Frank Kasbohm, Gary Feiereisel, Kurt G. Beranek, Fraterrigo, Beranek, Feiereisel & Kasbohm, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.


FILIP, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronald Miller ("Miller" or "Plaintiff") is suing Defendants, Special Agent Chris Lewis ("Lewis") and Harrah's Illinois Corporation ("Harrah's") (collectively "Defendants"), for alleged violations of his constitutional rights that occurred during Miller's arrest at a casino. (D.E. 20 (Third Am. Compl.) ("Compl.").)1 Miller alleges that Lewis falsely arrested him (Count I) and subjected him to excessive force during that arrest (Count II). Miller also alleges that Harrah's actions in detaining Miller and obtaining from him an alleged overpayment constituted false imprisonment, fraud, and extortion (Count III). The case is before the Court on Lewis's and Harrah's motions for summary judgment. (D.E.42, 43.) For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Harrah's motion, and grants in part and denies in part Lewis's motion.

I. Background2

Harrah's operates an manages a casino, Harrah's Casino Joliet ("Harrah's Casino"). ( Lewis SF ¶ 3.) Ronald Miller, a 57-year old man at the time of the incident at issue, was patronizing Harrah's Casino on May 5, 2002. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 7.) Lewis is a law enforcement officer with the Illinois Gaming Board ("IGB"), and he too was 57 years old. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 8.) On May 5, 2002, Lewis was acting within the scope of his employment as a Riverboat Agent assigned to Harrah's Casino. (Id.)

On May 5, Miller won approximately $13,000 at the craps table at Harrah's Casino. (Harrah's SF ¶ 1.) Miller went to the pay window to exchange his winnings by paying down approximately $9,000 in "markers," and by retaining the balance, or approximately $4,600 in cash. (Id. ¶ 2.) Miller did not count his chips, and thus did not know the exact amount of money he was due after completing the transaction. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 4.) He relied on Harrah's to properly exchange cash for chips. (Id. ¶ 4.) Miller tendered chips to the cashier to pay off his markers, and the cashier informed him that he would need to tender another $500 because he had turned in only $8,500 in chips for $9,000 in markers. (Pl. SAF ¶ 3.) Miller then gave the cashier chips totaling what he believed to be $500. (Id.) Miller then went to the craps table to see a Harrah's employee about getting a "comp ticket." (Pl. SAF ¶ 5.) On the way to the craps table, Miller was approached by a Harrah's representative who told him that he owed Harrah's $500. (Id. ¶ 6; Harrah's SF ¶ 6.) Miller informed the Harrah's representative that he had already paid and walked away. (Pl. SAF ¶ 6; Harrah's SF ¶ 7.) Miller played a few games of craps and returned to the cashier's window to cash out his winnings. (Pl. SAF ¶ 7.) He received a comp ticket and headed to a part of the casino called Club Cappuccino. (Id.)

During this time, Joan Lopez, Harrah's cage shift manager, was informed that there had been a $500 overpayment to Miller and that Miller was now leaving the cage area. (Harrah's SF ¶ 8.) When a cashier reports an overpayment to her supervisor or manager, the overpayment is confirmed by contacting the video camera surveillance department and by a count down of the cashier's drawer. (Lewis SF ¶ 22.) If a patron refuses to repay the overpayment, the patron will be evicted from the casino and theft charges could be brought against him. (Id. ¶ 23.) Harrah's may also take care of an overpayment through a collection agency. (Pl. Resp. to Lewis SF ¶ 23.)

Ms. Lopez confirmed with surveillance that there had been an overpayment and then called Harrah's security to be present when she approached Miller about the overpayment. (Harrah's SF ¶ 9.) Ms. Lopez also went to the cashier who had made the alleged overpayment, where the cashier "counted down" her drawer and verified that she was $500 short. (Id. ¶ 10.)

At approximately 2:00 p.m., Defendant Lewis received a call from a Harrah's manager requesting that he join her to question a guest about an overpayment. (Lewis SF ¶ 21.) On his way to meet the manager, Lewis received a call from surveillance, and Lewis was given the guest's physical description, his approximate location, and the name, Ronald Miller. (Id.) Lewis entered the hallway/corridor headed toward Club Cappuccino and walked past other patrons until he was behind a patron matching Miller's description. (Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.) At about the same time, Frank Tyse, a security supervisor for Harrah's, received instructions from his supervisor to locate a patron and determine if he was going to return an overpayment from the high limit cage. (Id. ¶ 18.) Mr. Tyse also received a radio call from surveillance, and he was given a description of the patron and the patron's location in the casino. (Id. ¶ 19.) Tyse ultimately arrived in the corridor where Lewis was following Miller, and Tyse shared this information with Lewis. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 25.)

Lewis and Tyse were walking behind Miller and called out his name. (Lewis SF ¶ 28.) As Plaintiff was walking down the corridor to Club Cappuccino, he heard someone call out "Miller." (Pl. SAF ¶ 12.) Plaintiff turned around, and when he did not recognize anyone, he continued to walk toward the coffee shop. (Id.; Lewis SF ¶ 29.) Miller turned around again after he heard his name called a second time and Lewis and Tyse had caught up with him. (Lewis SF ¶ 30; Pl. SAF ¶ 15.) Plaintiff recalls only seeing Tyse approach him at this time. (Pl. Resp. to Lewis SF ¶ 30.) Plaintiff appreciated that Tyse (whose name he did not know) was a casino employee because of the ID he was wearing, but Plaintiff did not know (at least according to Plaintiff) that Tyse was a security officer. (Pl. SAF ¶ 15.) Tyse told Miller that he owed the casino $500.3 (Pl. Resp. to Lewis SF ¶ 31.) Miller denied having the overpayment, turned and walked away. (Lewis SF ¶ 32; Pl. SAF ¶ 17.) According to Miller, he still had not seen Lewis at this point. (Pl. Resp. to Lewis SF ¶ 32.) Miller reversed his direction and walked the other way — i.e., away from Tyse and Lewis. (Lewis SF ¶ 33.)

By way of context, a videotape from the casino that the parties have provided reveals that the three men were not in the main gaming area at this point in time or in proximity to it. Instead, the three men were in a corridor area that apparently runs from the gaming area to other areas, such as the Club Cappuccino, and on the videotape they are few, if any, other people depicted in the relevant portion of the corridor area. (See Videotape at approximately 14:08:45.)

At this point, Lewis put his right hand on Miller's left upper arm. (Lewis SF ¶ 34.) Miller characterizes this action as Lewis pinching his arm.4 (Pl. SAF ¶ 19.) Miller states that neither Tyse nor Lewis had identified himself at this point (Pl. SAF ¶ 20; see D.E. 50, Ex. 1 (Miller Dep.) at 39, 40), which Lewis and Harrah's dispute (Lewis Resp. to Pl. SAF ¶ 20; Harrah's Resp. to Pl. SAF ¶ 20). (For example, Lewis contends that he identified himself at least once and perhaps twice as a police officer with the Gaming Board. (E.g., D.E. 42, Ex. 3 (Lewis Dep.) at 68, 74.)) Plaintiff told Lewis to get his hands off him. (Pl. SAF ¶ 22; see also D.E. 42, Ex. 9 (Miller Dep.) at 46 ("Okay. I say, `Get your fucking hands off of me right now.'").) Lewis did not release Miller but instead allegedly squeezed his arm harder. (Pl. SAF ¶ 22.)

The parties dispute exactly what happened at this point in the altercation. Lewis states that Miller pushed him away and that Lewis stumbled back. (Lewis SF ¶¶ 35, 36.) Miller initially testified that he pushed Lewis (see D.E. 42, Ex. 9 (Miller Dep.) at 33 ("And at that particular point I push him away from me")), but after reviewing the video surveillance tape of the incident, Miller testified that he only pulled away from Lewis. (See Miller Dep. at 48-49; see also Pl. SAF ¶ 23 (Miller pulled away from Lewis).) The Court has reviewed the video surveillance tape submitted by Lewis as an exhibit to his summary judgment motion. (Lewis SF, Ex. 4a.) The video does not definitively show whether Miller pushed Lewis or whether he merely pulled away from Lewis. What is clear from the video, however — and undisputed by the parties — is that Miller and Lewis were physically engaged for a brief period of time (seconds) which terminated as Miller disengaged from Lewis — either by pushing (Lewis's view) or pulling away in a shrugging sort of fashion (Miller's view). It is further undisputed that Miller then assumed a physical posture with his arms and hands raised toward Lewis — what the parties have characterized as a "defensive stance."5 (Lewis SF ¶ 37; Pl. SAF ¶ 26; Lewis Resp. to Pl. SAF ¶ 26.)

As Miller disengaged from Lewis and got into his stance, Lewis drew his firearm, unlocking the safety as he did so, and pointed it at Miller. (Lewis SF ¶ 38; Pl. SAF ¶¶ 27, 28.) Lewis did not observe any weapons on Miller before drawing his firearm. (Pl. SAF ¶ 30.) Miller dropped his hands and abandoned the physical stance after Lewis drew his firearm. (Lewis SF ¶ 39; Pl. SAF ¶ 32; Videotape at approximately 14:08:57.) As explained (see footnote 5, supra) the period of time that Miller was in any altercation-ready stance and that Lewis was pointing any weapon at Miller was approximately four seconds (see id.; Videotape at approximately 14:08:54 to approximately 14:08:57). The parties' factual submissions state that Miller and Lewis were both 57 years old. (Lewis SF ¶¶ 7-8.) Tyse's age does not...

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