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Dorobanov v. Caesars Entertainment Corp.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 27, 2018

Svetoslav Dorobanov, Paul Jovenich, and Randy Binning, Plaintiffs,
Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, Inc., Harrah's Illinois Corporation d/b/a Harrah's Joliet Casino Hotel, WMS Gaming, Inc., David Sandack, Emmanuel Flores, and Various Unknown Current and Former Employees of the Illinois Gaming Board, Defendants.


          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Svetoslav Dorobanov, Paul Jovenich, and Randy Binning filed this lawsuit against casino-gaming corporations Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, Inc., Harrah's Illinois Corporation d/b/a Harrah's Joliet Casino, WMS Gaming, Inc.; two Illinois State Police Officers, David Sandack and Emmanuel Flores; and a group of unknown current and former employees of the Illinois Gaming Board.[1] Plaintiffs allege civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and violations of Illinois common law.[2] Defendants jointly moved to dismiss [R. 30, 32, 34][3] the claims on various grounds, including that Plaintiffs missed filing before the statute of limitations expired on the § 1983 claim. For the following reasons, Defendants' joint motion to dismiss is granted in part, specifically against the § 1983 claim based on the limitations defense. With the federal law claim out of the picture, the Court relinquishes supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claim.

         I. Background

         In deciding motions to dismiss, the Court accepts as true Plaintiffs' factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 638 (7th Cir. 2010). Plaintiffs are professional gamblers from Las Vegas, Nevada. R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 4, 13. In April 2013, Binning learned from other gamblers that keno machines at various Harrah's casinos were making higher-than-normal payouts. Id. ¶¶ 14, 15. He traveled to Harrah's Casino in Joliet, Illinois, where he won a large sum of money playing the keno machines. Id. ¶ 14. Binning learned about other Harrah's properties in Mississippi that offered similar types of games, and left Joliet to play keno machines at three Harrah's casinos in Mississippi.[4] Id. ¶ 16.

         Binning shared the information about the higher-than-usual payouts from the Joliet keno machines with his friend Dorobanov. Compl. ¶ 18. Dorobanov in turn shared the information with his friend Jovenich. Id. Not surprisingly, Dorobanov and Jovenich travelled to the Harrah's in Joliet and played the keno machines until the casino turned off the machines. Id. Dorobanov and Jovenich both won a large amount of money playing the keno machines. Id.

         The better-than-normal payouts that Plaintiffs received resulted from the way the keno machines were programmed by the manufacturer of the machines, WMS Gaming. Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiffs did not receive inside information from WMS or do anything illegal to receive the higher payouts from the keno machines. Id. ¶¶ 15, 28. A July 2013 WMS report sent to the Mississippi Gaming Commission confirmed that there was an inadvertent coding error in the keno machines and there was no evidence any WMS software engineer was in contact with any casino patron (like Plaintiffs) who had won a significant amount of money on the keno machines. Id. ¶¶ 20, 23.

         Despite the WMS report's conclusion that no casino patrons received inside information, the Illinois Gaming Board investigated Plaintiffs for their substantial winnings from the Joliet keno machines. Compl. ¶¶ 25, 35. The exculpatory WMS report does not seem to have been considered in the Illinois Gaming Board investigation into Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiffs assert that this is probably because WMS and Caesars misled Investigator Sandack about the report. Id. Plaintiffs also allege Sandack and Flores did not conduct the investigation of Plaintiffs neutrally. Id.

         Plaintiffs were indicted in Will County, Illinois on March 6, 2014. Compl. ¶ 1. Arrest warrants were issued the same day. Id. Plaintiffs were charged with between 14 to 22 felonies, including violations of various computer tampering and computer theft statutes, rather than less-serious violations of the Illinois Riverboat Gambling Act, 230 ILCS 10/1 et seq. Id. ¶¶ 1, 22. The complaint alleges that Plaintiffs were indicted and prosecuted because of all Defendants' actions, specifically because Defendants never told the prosecutor, judge, or grand jury the truth: that Plaintiffs did nothing illegal while playing the keno machines in Harrah's casino. Compl. ¶ 28. The prosecution ended when the Will County judge granted Plaintiffs' motion for a directed verdict at the close of the State's case on February 7, 2015 and March 5, 2015. Id. ¶ 1.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint generally need only include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This short and plain statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (cleaned up). The Seventh Circuit has explained that this rule “reflects a liberal notice pleading regime, which is intended to ‘focus litigation on the merits of a claim' rather than on technicalities that might keep plaintiffs out of court.” Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002)).

         “A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). These allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The allegations that are entitled to the assumption of truth are those that are factual, rather than mere legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

         III. Rules 8(d) and 10(b)

         Before discussing the fatal problem with the complaint (its untimeliness), it is worth noting that one of the grounds raised by the defense would not have warranted a dismissal. According to the defense, the complaint violates Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(d) and 10(b). Rule 8(d) requires each allegation in the complaint to be “simple, concise, and direct.” Rule 10(b) mandates that a party state its claims or defenses in numbered paragraphs, “each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” The Seventh Circuit has noted that the “primary purpose of these rules is to give defendants fair notice of the claims against them and the grounds supporting the claims.” Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2011). “Dismissal of a complaint on the ground that it is unintelligible is unexceptionable” because it “fails to give the defendant the notice to which he is entitled.” Davis v. Ruby Foods, Inc., 269 F.3d 818, 820 (7th Cir. 2001) (cleaned up). Dismissal of a complaint, however, is inappropriate “merely because it contains repetitious and irrelevant matter, a disposable husk around a core of proper pleading.” Id.

         Defendants argue that it would be “a practical and logistical nightmare for each defendant” to answer the complaint as written because it is not clear which allegations are leveled against which Defendants. R. 31, Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 5-6. It is true that the complaint is verbose, contains unnecessary rhetorical questions (it would be the rare situation indeed for a rhetorical question to be properly posed in a complaint), and could more clearly state the facts and legal claims. For sure, the Court does not condone this type of pleading. Having said that, Defendants are on notice of the legal claims Plaintiffs brought against them and are able to sufficiently defend against them, which is the bottom line. Despite their protests, Defendants were able to distill the essence of Plaintiffs' claims. R. 49, Defs.' Reply Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 4. (“Each [Plaintiff] supposedly has two separate ...

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