Disgruntled Poker Players Sue Windham, Chattanooga Billiard Club

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some disgruntled poker players, saying they were promised prizes in an annual poker tournament at the Chattanooga Billiard Club, have filed suit after the tournament was canceled.

The Chancery Court suit, which seeks status as a class action, also named Phil Windham, CBC owner.

The suit says the free Texas Hold 'Em poker tournaments have been going on for over two years on Monday nights at the CBC location on Jordan Drive.

It says certain winners at the weekly tournaments qualified for prizes at a monthly tournament, and monthly winners could be in the annual tournament.

Michael Morelan, who has been conducting the tournaments, said he was advised recently that the poker tournaments were being halted. 

He said he inquired of Mr. Windham if that was true and an assistant manager checked, then told him, “Phil (Windham) says no Annual Tournament and that this is the last week.”    

Mr. Morelan said he then called Mr. Windam on his cell phone. He said Mr. Windham stated:  “This is the last week of poker.  I am not going to put out any more money for poker.  It is my money and I am going to keep it and there will be no annual tournament.”

The suit, filed by attorney Hoyt Samples, says promises of additional winnings at the annual tournament had been held out to the poker players and that the CBC had benefitted from the players buying food and drink.

It asks that damages be awarded to the plaintiffs.

Here is the full lawsuit:

MICHAEL MORELAN, BRANDON          )

CLOWERS, PATRICK CRANE,                 )

DANIEL MYERS, KEVIN POTEET,          )           NO. ______________

JASON SCHOLL, ADAM WALSH,           )

and others,                                                      )           IN THE CHANCERY COURT OF

                                                                        )

                        Plaintiffs,                                )           HAMILTON COUNTY, TENNESSEE

                                                                        )

v.                                                                     )           PART _______

                                                                        )

CHATTANOOGA BILLARD CLUB,         )

INC. and PHIL WINDHAM,                                    )

                                                                        )

                        Defendants.                            )

 

 

COMPLAINT

 

                        Now come Michael Morelan, Brandon Clowers, Patrick Crane, Daniel Myers, Kevin Poteet, Jason Scholl, Adam Walsh, individually and on behalf of the class of people to be defined herein, and state the following for their Complaint against Chattanooga Billiard Club, Inc. (“CBC”), and Phil Windham (“Windham”):

                        1.         Plaintiffs are residents of the State of Tennessee and have been at all times relevant to this matter.

                        2.         CBC is a Tennessee corporation with its principal address at 725 Cherry Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37402.

                        3.         Phil Windham is the proprietor, owner, and registered agent of CBC and can be served at 725 Cherry Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37402, or at 110 Jordan Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37421.

                        4.         Defendants have conducted business in Hamilton County, Tennessee, and made material misrepresentations of fact in Hamilton County, Tennessee.  Accordingly, this Court has subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue over the Defendants in these proceedings.

                        5.         As detailed more specifically herein, Plaintiffs are representative of a class consisting of more than 70 individuals, and the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impractical.  Furthermore, as will be detailed herein, there are questions of law and fact common to the class, and the claims of the representative parties are typical of the claims of the class.  Moreover, the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class. 

                        6.         The prosecution of separate actions by or against individual members of the class would create a risk of inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members of the class which would establish incompatible standards of conduct for the party opposing the class.  In addition, there would be adjudications with respect to individuals members of the class which would, as a practical matter, be dispositive of the interest of the other members not parties to the adjudications or would substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interest.  In addition, there are questions of law and fact common to members of the class which predominate over any questions affecting only individual members, and a class action is superior to other available methods for the fair and efficient adjudication of the controversy.

                        7.         For all of these reasons, the class, as defined herein, should be certified pursuant to T.R.Civ.P. 23.

BACKGROUND

                        8.         For more than two years, CBC has sponsored a free poker tournament on Monday nights at its location at 110 Jordan Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37421.  Typically, from 70 to 100 people would attend each Monday night (the “Weekly Tournament”). 

                        9.         The Weekly Tournament played a style of poker known as “Texas Hold’em.”  Registration began at 6:00 p.m. with the tournament beginning at 7:30 p.m.  The last remaining nine players qualified for the final table, and the winner of the Weekly Tournament received a gift certificate from CBC, the amount of which was dependent upon the number of players registering that week.  The funding mechanism for this and other prizes will be detailed herein.

                        10.       Those making the Weekly Tournament final table, together with the next two top finishers (the “Bubble Players”), qualified to play in a monthly tournament (the “Monthly Tournament”). 

                        11.       The participants who made the Weekly Tournament final table and the Bubble Players from each Weekly Tournament participated in the Monthly Tournament held at CBC each month at 110 Jordan Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37421. 

                        12.       At the Monthly Tournament, which did not require any payment to enter, the winner would receive a check from CBC, and the amount of the check would be dependent upon the number of participants that month in the Weekly Tournaments.  In addition, generally those finishing in second through fourth position would also receive gift cards from CBC. 

                        13.       Each person winning a Weekly Tournament and those people making the final table at the Monthly Tournament qualified for the annual tournament (the “Annual Tournament”).  All of the Plaintiffs qualified to participate in the Annual Tournament.

                        14.       The Annual Tournament has been held at CBC at 110 Jordan Drive, Chattanooga, Tennessee  37421, for at least the past two years.  The event is publicized by CBC through flyers distributed at the CBC locations and through postings on the CBC webpage.  An example of a flyer promoting the CBC poker events is attached as Exhibit A

                        15.       The advertising flyer states:  “Play Texas Hold’em Win Cash Every Monday Night.”  The flyer further states:  “Final Eight Players From Each Daily Tournament Qualify for Special ‘Winners’ Only’ Tournament Held at the End of Each Month for Even More Cash.”

                        16.       The flyer also states “Monthly Winners Also Qualify for a Huge, Annual Deep Stack Tournament … WITH AN EVEN BIGGER PURSE!”

                        17.       For each person who signed in to play in the Weekly Tournament, CBC contributed $1.00 toward the weekly, monthly, and annual prizes.  The $1.00 was divided as follows:  $0.40 toward the weekly winners; $0.40 toward the monthly winners; and $0.20 toward the Annual Tournament. 

                        18.       Defendants had a financial incentive in securing 70-100 people per week to attend CBC in that CBC actively promoted the sale of food and drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

                        19.       As a direct result of inducing individuals to participate in the poker tournaments, Defendants derived substantial revenue and were benefited significantly from an economic perspective.

                        20.       In late Spring 2012, Phil Windham, individually and as the owner, proprietor, and authorized agent of CBC, announced that the Weekly and Monthly Tournaments would be discontinued after the Annual Tournament, which was to be held in August 2012.  Windham  held open the possibility that if sales of food and beverages increased there could be a possibility of the Weekly and Monthly Tournaments continuing.

                        31.       At all times relevant to this controversy, Michael Morelan served as the Director of the poker tournaments.  As the Director, Mr. Morelan had the general supervision of the poker operations and conducted the poker tournaments in an efficient and fair manner.  At no time was Mr. Morelan an employee of the Defendants.  The only compensation that Mr. Morelan received was from donations from players.  He was not paid by CBC.

                        32.       On Monday, June 25, 2012, Mr. Morelan inquired as to the exact date for the Annual Tournament.  In doing so, Mr. Morelan checked with an assistant manager of CBC who in turn went to check the CBC calendar.

                        33.       When the assistant manager returned, she advised Mr. Morelan substantively as follows:  “Phil [Windham] says no Annual Tournament and that this is the last week.”    Mr. Morelan then called Mr. Windam on his cell phone.  In substance, Mr. Windham stated:  “This is the last week of poker.  I am not going to put out any more money for poker.  It is my money and I am going to keep it and there will be no Annual Tournament.”

                        34.       Mr. Morelan then questioned Mr. Windham’s integrity and asked him why he had been misleading the poker participants.  Mr. Windham then offered to have a tournament if Mr. Morelan would personally put up one-half of the money for the Annual Tournament.  Mr. Morelan further reminded Mr. Windham that it was he and CBC who had benefited from the revenue and that Mr. Morelan had not benefited at all financially, and that he would not put up one-half of the money for the Annual Tournament..

                        35.       Upon learning of Mr. Windham’s position, Mr. Morelan immediately terminated his affiliation with the poker tournaments. 

                        36.       Shortly after June 25, 2012, Mr. Windham had the flyers pertaining to the poker tournaments removed from the CBC premises and removed references to it from the CBC website.

COUNT I:  CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT VIOLATION

                        37.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are herein incorporated by reference.

                        38.       Defendants were engaged in the business of providing poker services to induce poker players to purchase food and beverages, and Defendants actively induced participants to become involved in the poker tournaments with the goal and objective of having the participants spend money which would benefit the Defendants.

                        39.       In accordance with the provisions of T.C.A. § 47-18-109, Plaintiffs bring this claim for breach of the Consumer Protection Act codified at T.C.A. § 47-18-101, et seq.

                        40.       Plaintiffs have suffered an ascertainable loss of money or property as the result of the use or employment by Defendants of unfair or deceptive acts or practices.

                        41.       The unfair or deceptive acts or practices employed by Defendants were willful or knowing, and, as such, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover treble their actual damages pursuant to T.C.A. § 47-18-109.

                        42.       Pursuant to the provisions of T.C.A. § 47-18-109(5)(e)(1), Plaintiffs are entitled to their reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

COUNT II:  FRAUD, DECEIT, AND MISREPRESENTATION

                        43.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are herein incorporated herein by reference.

                        44.       Defendants, in the course of their business, profession, or employment, or during a transaction in which said Defendants had a pecuniary interest, supplied false information to Plaintiffs, and said Defendants are subject to liability for pecuniary losses caused to Plaintiffs by Plaintiffs’ reliance upon such information.

                        45.       Defendants have made one or more representations of an existing or past fact, which representations are false.  Such representations are as to material facts, and such false misrepresentations were made by said Defendants with the knowledge that such representations were false, and Plaintiffs justifiably relied on such representations, and, as a result thereon, have sustained damages.

COUNT III:  CIVIL CONSPIRACY AND INTENTIONAL MISREPRESENTATIONS

                        46.       The allegations of Paragraph 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        47.       Defendants have colluded and conspired with each other to perpetuate a fraud on Plaintiffs, and as a direct and proximate result of such conspiracy, artifice, and scheme, Plaintiffs have been damaged.

                        48.       As a result of the intentional misrepresentations of Defendants as to material facts, and as a direct and proximate result of same, Plaintiffs have sustained substantial damages.

COUNT IV:  INTENTIONAL MISREPRESENTATIONS

                        49.       The allegations of Paragraph 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        50.       Defendants intentionally and by design have misrepresented material facts and/or sought to produce a materially false impression in order to obtain an undue advantage, and such actions constitute intentional misrepresentations and fraud.  As a result of such, Plaintiffs have sustained substantial damages for which such Defendants are jointly and severally liable.

COUNT V:  NEGLIGENT MISREPRESENTATIONS

                        51.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        52.       Defendants have represented one or more existing or past facts which were not merely an opinion; such multiple and material misrepresentations were false, and said Defendants knowingly or without belief in the truth of such misrepresentations, made such misrepresentations or recklessly made such representations with the knowledge that Plaintiffs were relying on such misrepresentations, as a result of which Plaintiffs have sustained damages.

                        53.       Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs for pecuniary losses sustained by Plaintiffs as a result of Plaintiffs’ justifiable reliance on false information supplied to Plaintiff on the grounds that said Defendants failed to exercise reasonable care or competence in obtaining or communicating the information relied upon by Plaintiffs.

COUNT VI:  UNJUST ENRICHMENT

                        54.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        55.       As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ acts and omissions, Defendants have been unjustly enriched at the expense of the Plaintiffs. 

                        56.       Through Defendants’ actions and/or omissions, Defendants have been unjustly enriched as a result of inducing Plaintiffs to expend resources for food and beverages based on the representation of their being an Annual Tournament “with substantial cash prizes.”

COUNT VII:  BREACH OF CONTRACT

                        57.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        58.       Plaintiffs and Defendants were parties to an oral contract between the Defendants and the Plaintiffs as to the existence and funding of an Annual Tournament.

                        59.       Defendants have breached such oral contract, and Plaintiffs have sustained economic damages as a result thereof.

COUNT VIII:  CLASS ACTION

                        60.       The allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 36 are hereby incorporated by reference.

                        61.       Plaintiffs bring this action on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated who would be eligible to participate in the Annual Tournament.  As stated herein, Plaintiffs are representative of a class of such individuals and would fairly and completely protect the interests of all members of the class.

                        62.       Plaintiffs respectfully request the Court to certify this action as a class action.

                        WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs pray the following:

                        (a)        That summons and process be issued and that the Defendants be required to appear and answer within the time required by law;

                        (b)        That the Court certify Plaintiffs as proper representatives of the class of people described herein as having claims against the Defendants arising out of the actions and omissions of the Defendants described herein;

                        (c)        That Plaintiffs be fully compensated for their pecuniary and economic losses and all incidental losses and that the Defendants be held jointly and severally liable for such losses;

                        (d)       That the amount of Plaintiffs’ damages be trebled pursuant to the applicable statutes as set forth in this Complaint;

                        (e)        That Plaintiffs receive their reasonable attorney’s fees, all as set forth in this Complaint;

                        (f)        That punitive damages in the amount of Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00) be assessed jointly and severally against the Defendants;

                        (g)        That all discretionary costs be allowed to Plaintiffs as well as all costs related to certifying Plaintiffs as representatives of the class affected and that all such costs be assessed against the Defendants;

                        (h)        That the court costs of this matter be taxed against the Defendants; and

                        (i)         That the Plaintiffs receive such other and further relief as to which they may be entitled.

 

SAMPLES, JENNINGS, RAY & CLEM, P.L.L.C.,

 

 

By:      _____________________________

Hoyt O. Samples, BPR #006765

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

130 Jordan Drive

Chattanooga, Tennessee  37421-6731

Telephone:  423-892-2006

Facsimile:  423-892-1919

 

 

 


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