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Wong v. Detroit Entertainment LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 13, 2017

JENNY WONG and MICHAEL CHUNG Plaintiffs,
v.
DETROIT ENTERTAINMENT, LLC et al. Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF ## 73, 76, 77)

          MATTHEW F. LEITMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Jenny Wong (“Wong”) is a former poker dealer at the Motor City Casino (the “Casino”) in Detroit, Michigan. In June 2014, she was arrested for allegedly stealing a $100 poker chip from the Casino. Wong contends that immediately after her arrest, Defendant Preston McBride (“McBride”), an employee of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (the “Gaming Board”), coerced and deceived her into surrendering her gaming license. Wong insists that the remaining Defendants (the Casino, one of its employees, and the two police officers who arrested her) worked in concert with McBride to deprive her of her license. In this action, Wong and her husband bring several claims against the Defendants. (See Compl., ECF #1; Sec. Am. Compl., ECF #55.) The Defendants have moved for summary judgment (the “Motions”). (See ECF ## 73, 76, 77.) For the reasons stated below, the Motions are GRANTED.

         I

         In 1999, the Casino hired Wong as a poker dealer. (See Wong Dep. at 13, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1397.) As a condition of her employment, the Casino required Wong to obtain and maintain an occupational gaming license issued pursuant to the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, M.C.L. § 432.201 et seq. (the “Gaming Act”), and it assisted her in obtaining that license. (See Id. at 14-15, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1398-99.) When Wong obtained her license, she received a badge that was the physical manifestation of her license. (See ECF #81-3 at Pg. ID 2205.) Wong worked for the Casino for nearly fifteen years. (See Wong Dep. at 13, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1397.)

         On May 13, 2014, the Casino determined that a table in its poker room was short $100. Wong had worked at the table in question that day. (See Ramon Bosques (“Bosques”) Dep. at 8-9, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 737.)

         The Casino reported the $100 shortage to the Gaming Board and began investigating the shortfall. (See 5/14/2014 Incident Report, ECF #86-2 at Pg. ID 2298; see also Bosques Dep. at 8-9, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 737.) The Casino's investigation took two weeks. (See Bosques Dep. at 10-11, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 738.)

         As part of the investigation, the Casino's surveillance team reviewed video footage of the poker table, including footage of Wong's shift. (See Id. at 8-9, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 737.) The team also reviewed footage of Wong's “prior work schedule” for at least the previous two weeks. (Id. at 10-11, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 738.) After the Casino completed its investigation, it concluded that Wong stole the missing $100 poker chip. (See Id. at 9, ECF #73-4 at Pg. ID 737.) On May 31, the Casino informed the Gaming Board that Wong “was observed placing a $100 [chip] under her sleeve on 5/13/2014.” (5/31/2014 Incident Report, ECF #86-2 at Pg. ID 2299).

         The following day, Michigan State Police (“MSP”) officers John Keating (“Keating”) and Andrew Hlinka (“Hlinka”) reviewed video of Wong's May 13th shift at the poker table. (See Keating Dep. at 18, ECF #73-7 at Pg. ID 807; see also Hlinka Dep. at 8-9, ECF #73-8 at Pg. ID 833.) Keating concluded that the video depicted Wong “reach[ing] into the rack of chips and … [then] put[ting] something up her sleeve.” (Keating Dep. at 18, ECF #73-7 at Pg. ID 807.) Hlinka likewise determined that the video showed Wong's “right hand” manipulating the $100 casino chip immediately before that same hand appeared to go “up into her sleeve.” (Hlinka Dep. at 42, ECF #73-8 at Pg. ID 842.) Both officers concluded that based on their review of the video, there was “probable cause” to believe that Wong stole the missing $100 chip. (Keating Dep. at 18-19, ECF #73-7 at Pg. ID 807; see also Hlinka Dep. at 11-12, ECF #73-8 at Pg. ID 834.) The officers then contacted the Casino and asked that Wong “be brought” to their office[1] so that they could speak with her. (Keating Dep. at 20-21, ECF #73-7 at Pg. ID 807.)

         Casino Shift Manager Michelle Thomas (“Thomas”) “took [Wong] to the [MSP's office].” (Thomas Dep. at 13, ECF #73-9 at Pg. ID 856.) Thomas did not participate in officers' interview of Wong. (See Id. at 22-23, ECF #73-9 at Pg. ID 859.) Her only interaction with the officers was to inform them that Wong spoke English. (See Wong Dep. at 30-31, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1414-15.) Thomas then left the MSP's office and did not return until after the interview was over. (See Thomas Dep. at 43-44, ECF #73-9 at Pg. ID 864.)

         Wong says that once the interview began, Keating and Hlinka accused her of stealing the $100 chip, refused to allow her to see her union representative or make a phone call, and threatened to take her to jail. (See Wong Dep. at 31-33, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1415-17.) Wong insists that she repeatedly told Keating and Hlinka that she did not steal the chip. (See id.) Despite those denials, Keating and Hlinka arrested Wong for committing the state-law crime of “larceny in a building.” (See Keating Dep. at 24, ECF #73-7 at Pg. ID 808.) They then photographed, fingerprinted, and released her from their custody. (See id.)

         Wong was then confronted by McBride in the Gaming Board's offices. (See Wong Dep. at 35-36, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1419-20.) Wong says that McBride was “really loud” and demanded that she surrender her badge. (Id. at 35, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1419.) Wong refused and asked to see her union representative. (See id.) Wong maintains that McBride “kept on talking, ” again demanded her badge, and that his behavior confused and frightened her. (Id. at 36, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1420.) Wong says that she “was really scared and arguing with him for probably about 10 minutes.” (Id.) During their argument, Wong took out her badge and held it in her hand. (See id.) McBride physically “grabbed it from [her]” and did not return it. (Id.) McBride “then pointed to a piece of paper[]” and demanded that Wong sign it. (Id.)

         The “piece of paper” was the second page of a two-page document titled “Voluntary Surrender and Termination of Occupational License” (the “Voluntary Surrender Form”) (See ECF #73-14 at 2-3, Pg. ID 927-28.). Wong says that McBride never showed her the first page of that document. (See Wong Dep. at 38, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1422.) That first page - which McBride allegedly withheld from Wong - provided, among other things, that:

I, Jenny Wong, Occupational License No. 504634, hereby voluntarily surrender my Occupational License to the Michigan Gaming Control Board in lieu of having my suitability for licensure considered by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. I fully understand the surrender of my Occupational License will constitute the complete termination of that license and I will retain no rights, entitlements or interests in a Michigan Gaming Board Occupational License, whatsoever. I further understand that if I had chosen not to surrender and terminate my Occupational License I could have availed myself of the right to have the Michigan Gaming Control Board consider my suitability for licensure, and, upon a denial or revocation of my license, I would have been entitled to the hearings and appellate rights provided for the in the [Gaming Act], its Rules promulgated thereunder, and the Administrative Procedure Act.
I further understand that I am agreeing to voluntarily waive any rights to appeal my decision to any court or otherwise.

(ECF #73-14 at Pg. ID 927.)

         The second page - the page that McBride presented to Wong and directed her to sign - stated that “along with submitting this surrender and termination of [her] license, [Wong was] also withdrawing [her] pending request for renewal of [her] license.” (Id. at Pg. ID 928.) The second page also contained a signature block. (See id.)

         Shortly after McBride yelled at Wong and physically grabbed her badge out of her hand, Wong capitulated to McBride's demand and signed her name in the signature block. (See Wong Dep. at 36, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1420.) She signed because she was “forced” to do so. (Id. at 131-32, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1515-16.) Wong now says that she did not “know what [she] was signing” because McBride withheld the first page of the document from her. (Id. at 37, ECF #76-2 at Pg. ID 1421.) She claims that she did not intend to give up her license. (See Id. at 36-38, ECF #76-2 at 1420-22.)

         The Casino believed that Wong had surrendered her license by signing the Voluntary Surrender Form, and it thereafter terminated her employment on the ground that she no longer maintained a license to be a casino dealer. (See Thomas Dep. at 30, ECF #73-9 at Pg. ID 861; see also Disciplinary Notice, ECF #81-3.)

         As of the date of this Opinion and Order, Wong has not been formally charged or prosecuted for the alleged theft.

         II

         On March 3, 2016, Wong and her husband, Michael Chung (“Chung”), filed this action against McBride, Detroit Entertainment LLC (which does business as the Casino), Thomas, and MSP officers Keating and Hlinka.[2] (See Compl, ECF #1; Sec. Am. Compl, ECF #55.) Wong and Chung have brought the following claims against the Defendants:

• In Count I, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), Wong alleges that she “had a protected property right in her [gaming] license” and that the Defendants denied her “procedural due process” when they “forc[ed]” her “by coercion and duress” to surrender the license, which led to the termination of her employment. (Sec. Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 62-65, ECF #55 at Pg. ID 440);
• In Count II, Wong asserts that the Defendants conspired “to divest [her] of her [gaming] license.” (Id. at ¶67, ECF #55 at Pg. ID 440-441);
• In Count III, Wong claims that the Defendants falsely arrested her in violation of both Michigan and federal law. (See Id. at ¶¶ 69-77, ECF #55 at Pg. ID 441-42);
• In Count IV[3], Wong alleges that the Defendants intentionally inflicted “severe and serious emotional distress” upon her. (Id. at ¶¶ 87-92, ECF #55 at Pg. ID 444-45); and finally
• In Count V, Chung brings a claim against the Defendants for lack of consortium. (See Id. at ¶92, ECF #55 at Pg. ID 445.)

         The Defendants filed the Motions on June 20, 2016. (See ECF ## 73, 76, 77.) The Court held a hearing on the Motions on October 14, 2016. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs. (See ECF ## 99, 100, 101, 102.) In McBride's supplemental brief, he argued that Wong's due process claim failed because she did not present any evidence that her post-deprivation remedies were inadequate. (See McBride Supp. Br. at 8, ECF #102 at Pg. ID 2419.) This argument rests on the so-called “Parratt doctrine” that emerged from the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981).

         After it reviewed the supplemental briefs, the Court decided that Wong should be given an opportunity to respond to McBride's Parratt doctrine argument. Accordingly, the Court entered a written order requiring the parties to appear for a continued hearing on January 13, 2017, [4] and instructing Wong's counsel to “be prepared to discuss the impact of the Supreme Court case of Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 and its progeny, including Jefferson v. Jefferson County Public School System, 360 F.3d 583 (6th Cir. 2004) ...


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