Race track owner wins judgment against 'completely frivolous' claim

By John O'Brien | Jul 19, 2013

CHARLES TOWN – Because it does not hire the grooms who work at its horse racing track, Penn National Gaming can’t be sued by a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted.

On April 9, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge David Sanders granted the motion for summary judgment filed by PNGI, the owner of Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. A week after the ruling, the company called the suit “completely frivolous.”

Frances M. Garcia sued the company in 2012, alleging she was sexually assaulted by fellow groom Carlos Dimas, who was not named as a defendant.

Dimas was hired by trainer Timothy Collins, who was licensed a stall at Charles Town Races and not an employee of PNGI.

“Carlos Dimas did not perform any work on behalf of PNGI at any time, whether as an employee or independent contractor or in any other capacity,” Sanders’ ruling said.

“Because PNGI did not employ or issue Dimas a permit, it had no reason or legal duty to conduct a background check on him to determine whether he is legally permitted to work in the United States.”

Garcia began working as a groom on May 10, 2010. Her complaint said Dimas sexually assaulted her in a tack room licensed to Collins later that month.

She claimed PNGI negligently hired and licensed Dimas without a background check, creating an unsafe working condition. She also did not sue Collins.

Sanders ruled she couldn’t show any employment or contractor relationship between Dimas and PNGI. At a minimum threshold for a negligent hiring claim, she needed to show that he was actually hired by the company, he added.

Even if she could, PNGI would not have been liable for several reasons, Sanders ruled.

Garcia alleged that during the assault, she could not get the deadbolt on the door in the room open. Sanders wrote the deadbolt “did not present a foreseeable high risk of harm for the intentional misconduct.”

A week after Sanders’ ruling, the company moved for sanctions against Garcia, who was represented by Eric S. Black of Berkeley Springs.

“Ms. Garcia claims that Carlos Dimas was an illegal immigrant who should not, as a matter of law, have been issued an occupation permit by PNGI,” the motion said.

“She claims that by ‘licensing’ Dimas and therefore permitting him to work at its facility, PNGI failed to provide the plaintiff with a reasonably safe workplace.

“This claim is completely frivolous as a matter of law.”

The motion said racing associations issue permits and licenses, not race tracks.

A day later, the company withdrew its motion and its third-party complaint against Collins. It was represented by Brian M. Peterson of Bowles Rice.

From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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