Before Judges Havey, Skillman & P.g. Levy
The opinion of the court was delivered by: P.g. Levy, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.
On April 12, 1993, while an employee of defendant Resorts International Casino Hotel, plaintiff Jacquelyn Myrick was mistakenly given the paycheck of another employee, Jacqueline Hill. According to plaintiff, she did not see that she had received the wrong check and was unaware that her own paycheck was for a greater amount. She proceeded to cash it by presenting it to a teller at an office of defendant Midlantic National Bank. The check had been drawn on another bank, and that bank returned the check to Midlantic due to a stop payment order. Midlantic advised Resorts of the error, and Resorts turned the matter over to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). The DGE investigated, identified plaintiff and learned of her role in the incident. The DGE caused plaintiff's arrest and subsequently filed criminal charges against her in the municipal court for theft of movable property worth $349.48, a fourth degree crime. N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3. The casino suspended plaintiff and filed a complaint with the Casino Control Commission, asking for revocation of her casino employee license and registration.
Both the criminal and the administrative matters were resolved in plaintiff's favor, but she was discharged from her employment with Resorts; it has refused to reinstate her, and she claims she is unable to find other employment in the casino industry. She brought a multi-count complaint and eventually was left with a claim for malicious prosecution against Resorts and its employee David Chan (the casino defendants) and claims for malicious prosecution and tortious interference with her employment contract against Midlantic and its employee Luann Altbaum (the bank defendants). The casino defendants and the bank defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment and the trial Judge granted each motion, effectively dismissing the complaint as to all defendants. Plaintiff appeals, but we affirm.
The relevant facts are not disputed. Plaintiff worked as a blackjack dealer, and she was paid an hourly wage plus a portion of tips collected. Paychecks were customarily delivered to dealers in the casino by another employee who would look at the dealer's name tag (which contained only the first name) and then retrieve the check from a box and hand it to the dealer. On this particular occasion, plaintiff was mistakenly given the paycheck of Jacqueline Hill by an employee she did not know, but recognized. She claimed that she followed her usual routine and placed the check in her pocket without examining it closely. Because she received different amounts each week and did not maintain a bank account, she drove to a local branch of Midlantic Bank, as she usually did, and cashed her check by showing her casino employee's identification documents to the teller. After Louanne Altbaum, the teller, received the check and identification from plaintiff, she asked whether plaintiff was married. Plaintiff testified at deposition that she told Altbaum that she was divorced and asked why Altbaum wanted to know that information. Altbaum never responded to plaintiff's question. The amount of the cashed check was $349.48.
Altbaum was notified sometime after plaintiff had cashed the check that an order to stop payment had been placed on it because it had been reported as lost or stolen. At the time of the transaction, Altbaum was not aware of the stop payment order because the paycheck was not drawn against a Midlantic account. Under the guidance of an assistant bank manager, Altbaum wrote a letter to Resorts in an effort to recoup the money. She explained in the letter that she was trying to locate Hill, who also may have been known as Jacqueline Myers, the name Altbaum believed had been endorsed on the check. She also asserted in her deposition that she had asked the name of the person who had presented the check why there was a different last name, and the person replied that it was due to a recent marriage. Altbaum informed Resorts that a stop payment had been placed against the check, as the check was reported "either lost or stolen." She requested Resorts' assistance in helping her recover the money from "Jacqueline." Finally, Altbaum asked for confirmation that Jacqueline Hill and Jacqueline Myers are the same person, and if not, whether Resorts had any information about Jacqueline Myers.
Upon receipt of the letter, Resorts contacted the DGE, and Detective Schulte undertook an investigation. He deduced that plaintiff was the person who had cashed the check, based on her identification number on it. Later, when she returned from a vacation, he and two other investigators interviewed her. According to the investigative report, when they confronted her with what they knew, she admitted that her signature was on Hill's check but stated that she did not realize the check belonged to Hill. She denied having a conversation with Altbaum about her recent marriage and could not explain: (1) why she did not realize that Hill's name, not hers, was the named payee of the check, or (2) why Hill's check was for $65 less than her own. At this point, plaintiff was arrested for "unlawfully taking certain movable property" in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3 and released on her own recognizance.
Plaintiff's version of what transpired during the interrogation is slightly different. She claimed there were five men in the room, all of whom were yelling at her, accusing her of stealing the check and telling her that she must admit to doing so. She tried to explain the absurdity of such a theory given the fact that she signed her name and placed her Casino Control Commission identification number on the back of the check. Plaintiff admitted that the endorsement on Hill's check looked like her signature, though she was not sure.
After plaintiff was fingerprinted, she was escorted to the employee locker room so that she could remove her personal property. Defendant Chan, a Resorts shift manager and plaintiff's supervisor, gave her a written notice of suspension. On May 26, 1993, plaintiff was discharged for "Rules of Conduct," which she believed meant stealing another employee's property.
Schulte's investigation was summarized in a report dated May 10, 1993. Among other things, the report stated that on April 30, 1993, plaintiff had "inquired about her April 12, 1993 check and said she did not receive her check." Plaintiff testified at her deposition that this was not true. She suggested that she had been set up by Resorts, and she did not ask about her April 12 check. Rather, she may have asked about her "vacation check."
The criminal charges against her were administratively dismissed on July 30, 1993. In addition, on August 17, 1993, the Casino Control Commission informed plaintiff that it had denied Resorts' application to have her casino employee license and ...