Submitted March 27, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No.
2:13-cv-00001-RL-PRC - Rudy Lozano, Judge.
Posner, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
POSNER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Trask was gambling at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond,
Indiana, when she picked up a $20 bill from the casino floor.
Casino personnel determined from security videos that another
patron had dropped the cash, and for more than an hour Trask
was detained and accused of being a thief. Claiming that the
detention had violated her rights, she filed this suit under
both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Indiana tort law.
casino's security cameras captured the entire episode. A
man leaving a change machine dropped the $20 bill, and Trask,
who was standing nearby with her back to him, turned around
and picked up his money after he had walked away. It's
impossible to tell from the videos, however, whether Trask
saw him drop the $20 bill or even knew that he'd been
standing behind her.
point the man realized that he was out $20 and contacted
casino management. He thought the change machine had
short-changed him, but casino staff after viewing the
security videos realized that Trask had picked up the $20
bill. By then several hours had passed, but she was still at
the casino, so the security supervisor confronted her. Trask
said she'd picked up the money thinking it was hers-that
she dropped it. She and the supervisor soon were joined by
two law-enforcement agents employed by the Indiana Gaming
Commission. They said that Trask could be seen on video
pocketing the $20 bill, but she repeated that she'd
thought it her own money.
the supervisor and the two agents watching, Trask began
calling friends who might be able to bring her $20 to give
the agents to get them off her back. After ten minutes,
however, before any friends had arrived, one of the agents
asked her to put away her cellphone and follow him to the
security office. When she ignored him, he grabbed the phone
and pulled Trask by her coat sleeve until she started
walking, then led her to the office, sometimes placing a hand
on her arm or shoulder to guide her.
taken to an interview room where the same agents asked that
she look in her purse for her driver's license. She
dumped the contents onto a table, and agreed to be patted
down; she was not frisked, and one of the agents returned her
cellphone so that she could resume soliciting money from
was $8 in the purse, which the agents seized. And because she
couldn't find her driver's license (and the agents
were unable to find her name in a casino database), the
agents escorted her outside to look in her car. There she
found the license and $5, both of which the agents
confiscated. She was then returned to the security office,
where she was told she was banned from the casino and would
be arrested if she tried to return. She was then
released-after nearly seventy minutes-but the agents kept the
$13 that they had taken from her.
later she filed this pro se lawsuit against the casino, the
casino's security supervisor, and the two agents. She
alleged that the agents had detained her without cause, had
used excessive force in taking her phone and marching her to
the security office, and had searched her purse, coat, and
car without authorization, all in violation of the Fourth
Amendment. She also alleged that they'd committed
state-law torts, including false arrest, battery, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress.
magistrate judge declined to recruit pro bono counsel for
Trask and also ruled on other pretrial matters, including
discovery disputes and her objection, which the judge
rejected, to being deposed in the presence of a paralegal
employed by defense counsel. The day after that deposition,
Trask contacted the lawyer for the casino and the security
supervisor to propose settling her case. Trask wanted meal
vouchers and access to the casino; the casino lawyer offered
her $100, which she accepted over the phone but later
rejected in a voicemail to the lawyer, who responded by
offering her an extra $150 (on top of the $100 offered
earlier) if she would settle. She refused, on the ground that
"We both agreed and I had a change of heart and I called
you within 24 hours. According to my knowledge any agreement
can be legally undone within 3 days."
defendants asked the district court to enforce the
settlement. At an evidentiary hearing Trask denied having
made a deal and insisted she'd only promised to consider,
and had later rejected, the casino lawyer's $100 offer.
The lawyer reminded her that she'd agreed by phone to
accept $100 to settle the case; the court agreed and ordered
the settlement enforced and her claims against the casino and
the security supervisor dismissed. Her notarized letter to
the casino's lawyer had included an unambiguous admission
that she'd agreed to accept $100 in satisfaction of her
claims against these defendants. Her belief that she could
agree but then back out is "unfounded in the law."
Pohl v. United Airlines, Inc., 213 F.3d 336, 337
(7th Cir. 2000). Indiana law (which governs her state-law
claim) does not (as Trask thinks) provide a three-day
"cooling off" period before an oral settlement can
be enforced. Jonas v. State Farm Life Ins. Co., 52
N.E.3d 861, 868 (Ind.Ct.App. 2016); Georgos v.
Jackson, 790 N.E.2d 448, 453 (Ind. 2003).
agents moved for summary judgment, arguing that Trask's
detention had been supported by reasonable suspicion and had
lasted no longer than necessary to investigate the alleged
theft, obtain identification, and recover what money they
could. Temporarily confiscating her phone was, they added, a
reasonable step, because she wouldn't hang up when told
to. They further added that it had been necessary to tug on
Trask's coat and take her by the arm or shoulder while
guiding her to the security office, and that they hadn't
searched her purse or car-she'd conducted those searches
herself, the agents insisted, and furthermore had consented
to the pat down of her coat. And finally her state-law claims
were barred, they said, because she ...