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Vo Van v. Grand Casinos of Mississippi

December 17, 1998

CONG VO VAN, UT THI NGUYEN, LAN THI TRAN AND MINH HOANG VAN
v.
GRAND CASINOS OF MISSISSIPPI, INC. AND BRUCE LOPRETE



Before Pittman, P.j., Smith And Mills, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/14/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN H. WHITFIELD

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS - OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE

DISPOSITION: REVERSED AND REMANDED - 12/17/98

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. Minh Hoang Van and Lan Thi Tran were arrested on July 24, 1993 and August 2, 1993, respectively, on charges of cheating at a gambling game in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 75-76-301(b) and § 75-76-307 (1993). Cong Vo Van and Ut Thi Nguyen were arrested on August 18, 1993 on charges of participating in a common plan or scheme to cheat at a gambling game in violation of Miss. Code Ann. § 75-76-301 and § 75-76- 307(1993). A preliminary hearing was conducted and indictments were returned against all defendants by a Harrison County grand jury. On March 26, 1996, the Harrison County Circuit Court dismissed with prejudice the indictments for failure of the State of Mississippi to provide a speedy trial as required by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Section 26 of the Mississippi Constitution.

¶2. On March 19, 1997 Cong Vo Van ("Cong"), Ut Thi Nguyen ("Ut"), Lan Thi Tran ("Lan"), and Minh Hoang Van ("Minh") filed a malicious prosecution action against Grand Casinos of Mississippi, Inc. ("Grand Casinos") and Bruce Loprete in the Harrison County Circuit Court, First Judicial District. Grand Casinos and Bruce Loprete subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment. The Circuit Court entered an order sustaining such motion on the ground that the dismissal of the prior criminal charges against Cong, Ut, Lan, and Minh on speedy trial grounds was not a "favorable termination" necessary to support a civil action for malicious prosecution.

¶3. Cong, Ut, Lan and Minh appeal the lower court's grant of summary judgment, bringing a single issue for review on appeal: whether a dismissal of criminal charges on constitutional grounds is a "favorable termination" which would support a subsequent civil action for malicious prosecution.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

¶4. At the time of their arrest, Minh and his wife Lan were employed as card dealers at Grand Casinos located in Gulfport, Mississippi. Both administered playing cards to patrons at the mini baccarat tables. Cong and his wife Ut are the parents of Minh. On July 13, 1993, video tape surveillance recorded Cong and Ut sitting at a mini baccarat table at which Lan was dealing. The cameras allegedly recorded Lan deviate from the established card shuffling policy enforced by Grand Casinos. During this time, the mini baccarat players seated at Lan's table, including Cong and Ut, won eleven consecutive games. Prior to Lan's deviation in shuffling, video surveillance revealed sporadic betting patterns by the players. However, during the winning span, the players' wagers greatly increased resulting in a loss to Grand Casinos in excess of $40,000.00. Lan was later filmed on July 20, 1993 utilizing a similar "false shuffling" technique.

¶5. On July 19, 1993 video surveillance captured Minh digressing from the established card shuffling policy at a mini baccarat table. As a result, the mini baccarat players seated at Minh's table, including Cong and Ut, won seven consecutive games. Again, the players' wagers greatly increased during this time in relation to the wagers placed prior to the unusual shuffling technique exhibited by Minh. As a result of these seven wins, Grand Casinos paid the players over $15,000.00.

ΒΆ6. Bruce Loprete was employed in the surveillance department at the Gulfport Grand Casinos at the time the alleged incidents occurred. After viewing the video tapes himself, he contacted officials from the Gulfport Police Department as well as the Mississippi Gaming Commission to view the tapes. In addition, an investigator with the Isle of Capri Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi was contacted to view the tapes and advise as to the possibility of "false shuffling." On August 17, 1993, affidavits against Cong, ...


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