|NO. CV 00-131||:||MASHANTUCKET PEQUOT|
|GAMING ENTERPRISE||:||JULY 31, 2000|
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
On January 15, 2000 the plaintiff was a guest at the Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo & Casino operated by the defendant. He gambled for a while, and then left the gaming tables to watch a boxing match in which Ray Jones, Jr. was one of the pugilists. As he left the gaming area the plaintiff recalls that he placed gambling chips worth about $3,000.00 into a zippered pocket of a black leather coat recently given to him as a gift. The coat pockets also contained an expensive cigar case and several imported cigars.
Before visiting the gaming tables, the plaintiff had checked into the hotel at the casino. He did not leave the leather coat in his hotel room, nor did he leave it at the casino’s coat check room. Instead, he wore or carried the coat in the gaming and lounge areas of the casino.
After stopping at another lounge in the casino, the plaintiff arrived at the lounge on the 21st floor to view the boxing match on the lounge’s television. One must patronize the casino at a certain level of play before a patron (and his guest, if any) is admitted to this lounge. The lounge was dimly lit, and less crowded than other lounges. In the plaintiff’s view, this lounge catered to a more reliable and higher quality class of patron than elsewhere in the casino, and he enjoyed a heightened sense of comfort and security when visiting this lounge.
The plaintiff and his friend sat at the bar while watching the television. The plaintiff draped his coat over the rear of his bar chair and became absorbed in the progress of the televised match. At one point, the plaintiff and his friend moved to chairs closer to the television. The plaintiff left the bar area only once during the match, to visit the restroom. When the boxing match ended he looked for his coat, and discovered that it was not where he left it. An investigation by casino security personnel concluded that it was most likely that the leather coat was removed from the back of the chair by an unknown person. The coat and its contents have not been recovered by the plaintiff.
The plaintiff claims that he was lulled into a sense of security by the fact that the lounge on the 21st floor was available to a limited and select group of patrons, and that the comfortable and exclusive atmosphere of the lounge induced in him a diminished state of vigilance regarding the whereabouts of his coat and its contents. He asserts that the defendant was negligent in creating that atmosphere and then not supervising the lounge to a degree sufficient to prevent acts such as the theft of his coat. The defendant denies that it was negligent, asserts that its conduct was not the proximate cause of the loss of the plaintiff’s coat and contends that plaintiff’s own carelessness and negligence was the proximate cause of the loss of his coat.
In Mashantucket, "[i]t is . . .settled law that the defendant, as a casino owner, is not an insurer of its invitees. The mere fact in and of itself that the plaintiff [suffered a loss] on the premises does not constitute a lack of due care – or negligence – on the part of the defendant." Ruffo v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, 1 MPR 3,4 (1994). To prevail, the plaintiff must establish not only that the defendant was negligent in same fashion, but also that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s loss. Martello v. Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise, 1 MPR 28 (1996).
Applying the foregoing principles to the present matter, there was no evidence that the defendant was aware of a propensity to steal by patrons or guests in this lounge. There was no evidence of any previous thefts or accidents resulting from a low level of light in this lounge. There was no evidence to enable the court to conclude that an insufficient number of security officers were assigned to this area. There was no evidence to support a finding that dim lighting or an inadequate number of security officers in this area was the proximate cause of the loss of the coat.
Moreover, the plaintiff’s own conduct cannot be ignored. He did not leave the coat in his hotel room, nor did he avail himself of the casino’s coat check facilities. Although he was aware that the coat contained gambling chips worth thousands of dollars, he left it draped over the chair while he concentrated on other activities and events.
Considering all the circumstances, the court finds that the defendant was not negligent in its supervision of the lounge on the 21st floor, and that its conduct was not the proximate cause of the loss of the plaintiff’s coat.
Judgment hereby enters for the defendant.
Edward B. O’Connell, Judge
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