Weitzel v. MGM Mirage, No. 2:2008cv00627 - Document 28 (D. Nev. 2009)

Court Description: ORDER granting 11 Motion for Summary Judgment. Ordered that this matter shall remain open to allow the intervention of the bankruptcy trustee. Signed by Judge Brian E. Sandoval. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - AXM)
Download PDF
$.ikFD - ,- - - ---- Sî'!. t', 'tE .)' .511 ' ' . (77 t 7!l=()î :i lfl()' yn --- Lriiilglg.p cocyi. ....) . - 1 2 î 3 $ t 4 5 V B '?'î'Xp -.s:...cj-.-.. ;)):t. ( ,,j ya j ( . ' ' . , y , : ' . , . t . s j j , r . t gg .-... -7..2=7---* . . 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 DISTRICT O F NEVADA 8 9 SAM UEL W EITZEL, 10 2:08-cv-627-BES-PAL Plaintis, 11 O RDER v. 12 THE M IIRAG E CASINO HOTEL,a Nevada 13 Corporation. 14 Defendant. 15 16 17 Weitzel v. MGM Mirage 18 Currently before the Court is DefendantThe Mirage Casino-Hotel's (the 'iMirage' ') 19 Motion forSummary Judgment(#11)filed on October21,2008. PlaintiffSam uelW eioel 20 (' dplaintiff'') filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#16) on Doc. 28 21 November17,2008,andthe Miragefileda Reply(#20)on December1,2008.Oraiargument 22 was heard on this m atteron April21,2009. 23 BACKGROUND 24 This case invoives an em ploym ent discrim ination ciaim based on the A ge 25 Discrim ination in EmploymentActof1967(A DEA'') Piaintiffwasemployed bythe Mirageas 26 a craps dealerfcra period ofovertwenty years. According to Plainti ff in addition to working O7 the craps table,the Mirage occasionally required him to work as a blackjack deaiereven 28 thoughhewasnotformallytrainedforthatposition.(Complaint(#1)at3).Plaintiffstatesthat - l 1 j ' t Dockets.Justia.com 1 during one ofthe occasionswhen he was requiredto workasa blackjackdealer,he i'made 2 a minormistake,whichwas repoded,immediately,to the pitsupervisor.''Ld=.at4.The next 3 day,Plaintiffwassuspendedfrom hisemploymentwiththe Mirage.Ld-uAccordingtoPlaintiff, 4 he was falsely accused ofldengaging in intentionalbehavior''which resulted in the Ioss to the 5 Mirage offourhundred dollars.Ld=.Plaintiffwasterminated on June 7,2006.Ld-. 6 Atthe time ofhis term ination,Plaintig was sixty years old. Ld=.at5. On August22, 7 2006,Plaintil filed a Charge of Discrim ination with the United States EqualEm ploym ent 8 Oppodunity Commission CEEOC''). (Defendant's Motion forSummary Judgment(#11)at 9 Exhibit 1).Plainti fffiled an Amended Charge the following day. Ld=.atExhibit2. In his 10 Am ended Charge,Plaintiffasserted thathe was discrim inated againstby the Mirage based 11 on age. Plaintiffasserted thatthe earliestdate ofdiscrim ination was M ay 26,2006,and that 12 the Iastdate ofdiscrim ination was June 7,2006. Ld=.Plaintiffasseded thatalthough he was . 13 technically discharged forfailing to follow ing gam ing policy and procedures,he believed he 14 was term inated because ofhis age. Ld=. 15 Severalm onths Iater,butwhile the EEO C charge was stillpending,Plaintifffiled a 16 Chapter7 Bankruptcy Peti tion w ith the United States Bankruptcy Court,Districtof Nevada. 17 1 1 .atExhibit3. As partofthe petition,Plaintiffwas required to listand attestto his personal . . 18 propedy. Ld-uatExhibit3,p.14.Specifically,Schedule B ofthe Bankruptcy Petition included 19 a listofthe type ofproperty to include and indicated thatifthe debtorhad no property in one 20 ormore ofthecategoriesto placean ''x' 'inthecolumn Iabeled''none.''Ld=.Plainti ffplacedan 21 'ix''inthe none colum nforthe categoryw hich Iisted:iothercontingentand unliquidated claim s 22 ofevel-y nature,including tax refunds,counterclaim softhe debtor,and rightsto setof ciaim s.'' 23 Ld= Three months Iater,on Juiy 18,2007,the BankruptcyCourtgranted Plaintiffa discharge 24 ofhisdebts.Ld=.atExhibit4.A finaldecree wasentered in the bankruptcycase on July24, 25 2008.Ld=. 26 On Februal-y 15,2008,the EEOC sentPiaintiffa Dism issaland Notice ofRights ietter. 27 Ld=.atExhibit7.According tothatIetter.the EEOC stated thatitwas'unable toconcludethat 28 the inform ation obtained establishes a violation ofthe statutes.'' 1t However the I ettergave ! .- 1 Plaintiffthe rightto file a Iawsuitbased on the charge in eitherfederalorstate court. Plaintiff 2 filed the instantIawsuiton M ay 14,2008. In his Com plaint,Plaintiffasseded thatas a result 3 ofthe M irage's discrim ination,Plaintif ''experienced financialruin,including butnotIim ited to 4 foreclosure onthe family home gand)the filing ofbankruptcy.'' (Complaint(#1)at8). 5 On October21,2008,the Miragefiled a MotionforSummaryJudgment(#11)onthe 6 claim s asseded againstitin Plaintifrs com plaint. According to the M irage,itis enti tled to 7 summ aryjudgmentbecause Plaintifffailed to disclose his claim s againstthe Mirage in his 8 Bankruptcy Petition. (Motion forSummaryJudgment(#11)at10).As a result,the Mirage 9 statesthatPlaintiff isjudiciall y estopped from pursuing hisclaims againstthe Mirage inthis 10 case. 11 DISCUSSION 12 Summaryjudgment'Yhallberendered fodhwith i fthe pleadings,depositions,answers 13 to interrogatories,and adm issions on file,togetherwith the affidavits,ifany,show thatthere 14 isno genuine issue asto any materialfactand thatthe moving party isenti tled tojudgment 15 as a matterofIaw.'' Fed.R.CiV.P.56(c). A materialissue offactis one thataffects the 16 outcome ofthe Iitigation and requiresa trialto resolve the differing versions ofthe truth. Lvnn 17 v.SheetMetalW orkers Int'lAss'n,804 F.2d 1472,1483 (9th Cir.1986). The burden of 18 dem onstrating the absence ofa genuine issue ofmaterialfactlies with the m oving party,and 19 forthis purpose,the m aterialjodged by the moving party m ustbe viewed in the lightm ost 20 favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v.S.H.Kress & Co.,398 U.S.144,157 (1970). , 21 Madinez v.Citv ofLosAnneles,141 F.3d 1373,1378 (9th Cir.1998). 22 Any dispute regarding a m aterialissue offactm ustbe genuine- the evidence m ustbe 23 such that''a reasonable jury could return a verdictforthe nonm oving party.'' 1j.. Thus, 24 iigwlhere the record taken as a whole could notlead a rationaitrieroffactto find forthe 25 nonmoving party,there is no genuine issue fortrial''and summary judgment is proper. 26 MatsushitaElec.Indus.Co.v.ZenithRadioCorn.,475U.S.574,587(1986). '' A merescintilla 27 ofevidence willnotdo,fora jury is perm i ded to draw only those inferences ofwhich the 28 evidence is reasonabiy susceptibletit m ay notresortto speculation.'' B ri tish A irwavs Bd.v. i ? i ' i l Boeinn Co.,585 F.2d 946,952 (9thCir.1978).Theevidence mustbe significantlyprobative, 2 andcannotbe merelycolorable.Andersonv.Libertv Lobbv,Inc.,477 U.S.242,25O (1986). 3 Conclusow allegations that are unsuppoded by factualdata cannot defeat a motion for 4 summaryjudgment.Tavlorv.List,88O F.2d 1040,1045 (9th Cir.1989). 5 ln its motion forsummaryjudgm ent the Mirage asserts thatthe doctrine ofjudicial 6 estoppelapplies to Plaintiff's claim s in this case because he failed to disclose them to the 7 bankruptcy coud during his bankruptcy proceedings.The M irage notes thatPlaintifffiled the 8 charge ofdiscrim ination with the EEO C severalm onths before filing his bankruptcy petition. 9 Therefore,according to the M irage,Plaintiffhad sufficientknowledge ofthe potentialclaim s 10 to require disclosure to the bankruptcy coud.Thus,because hefailed to disclosethe potential 11 claims,the Mirage asseds thatjudicialestoppelshould be invoked in orderto protectthe 12 integrity ofthe bankruptcy process. 13 In response,Plaintif concedesthathefailedto disclose his potentialclaim sagainstthe 14 M irage to the bankruptcy coud. However,Plainti ff asserts that this was an inadvertent 15 om ission based onthe factthathe did nothave an attorneywhen he filed hisem ploymentlaw 16 claim .Inaddition,Plainti ffarguesthatjudicialestoppelshouldnotbeappliedbecausePlaintiff 17 hasfiled a m otion to reopen his bankruptcy proceeding so thathe m ay am end his scheduled 18 Iistofproperty to include the M irage claim s. 19 Pending and potentialcauses ofaction are am ong the ddlegaland equitable interests'' 20 thatbecom e the propedy ofa bankruptcy estate upon filing a bankruptcy petition. See 11 21 U.S.C.541(a)(1)(the bankruptcyestate includes''aIIIegalorequitable interestsofthe debtor 22 in property as ofthe commencementofthe casenl' ,see also Sierra Swi tchboard Co.v. 23 W estinnhouse Elec.Corn.,789F.2d 705,707 (9thCir.1986)(evenpersonalinjuryciaimsare 24 partofthe bankruptcyestate whetherornottransferable orassignable understate law).As 25 a result,the ''Bankruptcy Code and R ules 'im pose upon the bankruptcy debtors an express, 26 affirm ative dutyto disclose a1Iassets,includingcontingentand unliquidated claims,'''Ham ilton 27 v.State Farm fire & Casualtv Co.,27O F.3d 778,785 (9th Cir.2001ltquoting ln re Coastal 28 Plains.Inc.,179 F 3d 197,207-08 (5th Cir.1999)).''The debtcr'sdutyto disclose potential l ; 4 : 1 claim s asassets does notend when the debtorfiles schedules,butinstead continues forthe 2 duration ofthe bankruptcy proceeding.''Ld-u 3 Because pending and potentialcauses ofaction are required to be disclosed in a 4 bankruptcypetition,courts have i judiciallyestopped a padyfrom asserting acause ofaction 5 not raised in a reorganization plan or otherwise m entioned in the debtor's schedules or 6 disclosure statem ents.''.$..at783.' 'Thedoctrine ofjudicialestoppelisanequitable doctrine 7 a courtmay invoke to protectthe integrity ofthe judicialprocess.'' United Nat,Ins.Co.v. 8 SDectrum W orldwide,Inc.,555 F.3d 772,778 (9thCir.2009).Accordingtothe Ninth Circuit, 9 the doctrine S'was developed to preventIitigants from 'playing fastand Ioose'w i th the couds 10 by taking one position,gaining an advantage from that position,then seeking a second 11 advantage by Iatertaking an incompatible position.' Ld=. In addition,judicialestoppelis 12 invoked inordertomaintainthe'iorderly administration ofjustice and regard forthe dignityof 13 judicialproceedings.''Hamilton,27OF.3dat782.Uudicialestoppelnotonlybarsinconsistent 14 positionstakeninthesame Iitigation,but'barls)Iitigantsfrom makingincompatiblestatements 15 intwo differentcases.'''United,555 F.3d at778 (quoting Hamilton,270 F.3d at783). 16 The United States Suprem e Courthas Iisted three factors a courtm ay consider in 17 determining whetherto apply the doctrine ofjudicialestoppel:(1)whethera party's iater 18 positionisd'clearlyinconsistent'withitsearlyposition' ,(2)whetherthe partyhassucceeded in 19 persuading a courtto acceptthatparty's earlierposition,so thatjudicialacceptance ofan 20 inconsistentposition in a Iaterproceeding would create i'the perception thateitherthe firstor 21 thesecondcourtwasmisled,''therebythreateningjudicialintegrity' ,and (3)whetherthe pady 22 seeking to assertan inconsistentposition would derive an unfairadvantage orim pose an 23 unfairdetrimentonthe opposing padyifnotestopped. Ham ilton,27O F.3d at782-83 (citing 24 New HamDshire v.Maine,532 U.S.742,121S.Ct.1808,149 L.Ed.2d 968 (2001)).However, 25 the Supreme Cour'tstated that''Ei)nenumerating these factors,we do notestablish inflexibie 26 prerequisitesoranexhaustive formula fordeterm ining the applicability ofjudicialestoppel.' 27 Ld-u ''Additional considerations m ay inform the doctrines appiication in speci fic factual 28 contexts.''Ld=. . 5 i l 1 1 The Ninth Circuithasapplied the doctrine ofjudicialestoppelto claims notdisclosed 2 in a bankruptcy petition butIaterfiled in coud. See Ham ilton,270 F.3d at778* ,see also Hav 3 v.FirstInterstate BankofKalisoell.N.A.,978 F.2d 555 (9th Cir.1992). In Hav,the Ninth 4 Circuitaffirmed an orderofsummaryjudgmenton behalfofthe defendantafterthe piaintiff 5 filed suiton a case itfailed to disclose to the bankruptcy court. 978 F.2d at555. According 6 to the court,the ddcom plaintsetfodh severalcauses ofaction,each ofw hich arose out of 7 events that occurred either prior to, or during the pendency of' plaintiff's bankruptcy 8 proceeding,Ld-uat556-57. Infact,the courtnotedthatplaintiffd 'learned ofthefacts''thatIed 9 to the discoveryofthe claim s asseded inthe case ddsom e fourm onths priorto the close ofthe 10 bankruptcy case.'' I J-. The coud stated thati trecognized thatalIfacts 'iwere notknown to . 11 (plainti ffjatthattime,butenough was known to require noti fication ofthe existence ofthe 12 assetto the bankruptcy court.' Ld-u Because the plaintifffailed to gi ve the required notice to 13 the bankruptcy coud,the coud held thatplaintiffwas estopped from laterbringing the claim s. 14 Ldw.As a result,summaw judgmentwasappropriate. 15 In Ham ilton,the NinthCircuitappliedthethreefactorsespoused bythe Suprem e Coud 16 to hold that Ham ilton was estopped from bringing a claim againstState Farm because he 17 failed to disclose the claim to the bankruptcy coud. 270 F.3d at778.Asto the firstfactor,the 18 courtnoted thatHam ilton clearly asseded inconsistentpositions when he 'ifailed to Iisthis 19 claim s againstState Farm as assets on his bankruptcy schedules,and then Iatersued State 20 Farm on the same claims.' Ld=.at784. As to the second factor,the courtstated that'a 21 discharge ofdebtby a bankruptcycoud,underthese circum stances,issuficientacceptance 22 to provide a basisforjudicialestoppel,even i fthe discharge is latervacated.''Ld-uThe court 23 went on to note that its holding ''does not im piy thatthe bankruptcy coul' t m ust actuafly 24 discharge debtsbefore thejudicialacceptance prong may be satisfied.''Ld-.''The bankruptcy 25 courtm ay(accept'thedebtor'sassedionsbyrelying onthedebtor'snondisclosure ofpotential 26 claims in manyotherways.''Ld.. Based on the foregoing,the courtheldthatit''mustinvoke 27 judicialestoppefto protectthe integrityofthe bankruptcyprocess ''Ld=. 25 1 . inthi smatter.judi ci alestoppe!i sappropri atetoprotecttheintegri tyofthebankruptcy. l (- ! i 1 process. Plaintiffconcedes thathe failed to disclose his potentialclaim s againstthe M irage 2 in his bankruptcy petition. M oreover,Plainti fffil ed his EEO C charge severalm onths priorto 3 the com m encementofthe bankruptcy proceedings,which showsthathe had the inform ation 4 w hich he relied on in his discrim ination claim severalm onths before filing forbankruptcy.As 5 a result,because Plaintifffailed to disclose his discrim ination claim to the bankruptcy court, 6 his Iaterposition to sue the M irage based on thatsam e claim is 'clearly inconsistent''w ith the 7 position he took with the bankruptcy coud. In addition,itis clearthatthe bankruptcy court 8 accepted Plaintiff's earlierposi tion because itdischarged Plaintifrs debt.ThatPlaintif has 9 subsequently m oved to reopen the bankruptcy proceeding does notexcuse his earlierfailure 10 to disclose' ,judicialestoppelensuresthatdebtorsmake a ii fulland honestdisclosure''oftheir 11 assets in the originalbankruptcy proceeding. See Ham ilton,270 F.3d at784-85. Nordoes 12 Plaintifrs claimed ignorance ofthe disclosure requirem entsbecause he filed his EEO C charge 13 withoutan attorney preventthe application ofjudicialestoppel. Atthe time he filed for 14 bankruptcy,Plaintiffknew the facts giving rise to his claim s againstthe M irage,and allowing 15 such claim s to proceed atthis tim e would disruptand im pairthe integri ty ofthe bankruptcy 16 proceedings.l 17 Basedontheforegoing,sum maw judgmentisappropriate on Plaintiff'sclaimsagainst 18 the M irage. However,atoralargum ent,the parties conceded thatthe realparty in interestin 19 this case is the bankruptcytrustee because Plaintifffiled to reopen his bankruptcy proceeding 20 afterthe Mirage fiied itsm otion forsummaryjudgment.As a result,the partiesstipulated to 21 the intervention ofthe bankruptcy trustee in this m atter. 22 CONCLUSIO N 23 Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant's M otion for 24 25 I At oral argum ent. Plaintiff argued that his f. ailure to list his discrim inatjon claim on his 26 bankruptcl'schedule w as notbased on an) bad faith m olive orintent to deceive. ..H ow ever.Plaintiff . provided no case law orauthoritl'forthe proposition thathis ..good taith ignorance u,as an exception n. y to the doclrine ofiudicialestoppelin thiscontext. M oreoNrer.Plaintiffsrepeated assertionsthattbere vvould be-'no hanh, 1done-'ifPlaintiffNvasaliou'edto proeeedinhisdiscrinlination clainlissvithoul 28 naerit. Notabl).allon'ing Plaintiffto proceed in thism atteT'ur ould harm the judicialinlegrit) ()t'the - . . bankruptc) proceeding and the ruiing and hoiding otthalcourt. ! ,.. l ' 1 SummaryJudgment(#11)is GRANTED. Itis FURTHER ORDERED thatthis mattershall rem ain open to allow the intervention ofthe bankruptcy trustee. DATED:This 22ndday ofApril, 2009. UN l ED STA TES D IST R ICT JU DG E 21