The story, at first, seems unbelievable. The court documents (one of which is stamped, “I love cats”) read like a rough draft for a Coen brothers’ screenplay: You have a 30-something, unemployed, self-described “pinball wizard” suing a “hippie” arcade operator for an alleged assault that took place during a game of Xenon, which the plaintiff says he’s “mastered well beyond incredible defeat.”
In addition to damages exceeding $10,000, the plaintiff, John Luckett, who has no law degree and represents himself in court, asks for an additional $300 for each therapy session he will undergo due to the trauma of the alleged assault and from arcade operator Tim Arnold “forever 86ing” him from the Pinball Hall of Fame, thus depriving him of reliving his good childhood memories playing Xenon.
In all, Luckett filed a total of 11 complaints, ranging from assault to breech of contract (for turning off the machine) to discrimination, the latter containing a claim that volunteers at the Pinball Hall of Fame are “prejudice” against him because of his pinball wizardry and ability to play for hours on 50 cents. Arnold says the litigation has already cost the nonprofit charitable organization that operates the Hall of Fame $13,000 in legal fees.
Arnold never saw any of this coming. On the day of the incident, February 15, 2010, Arnold, who owns the machines at the arcade run by the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club, says he didn’t know Luckett was listed by California courts as a “vexatious litigant,” prohibited from filing suits there without court permission. He also didn’t know that Luckett, who is currently living in Anaheim, California, has filed more than 40 lawsuits in several states since his teen years. Arnold says he knew him only as the guy causing problems one February day at the Pinball Hall of Fame. And that Luckett refused to leave the premises when ordered to do so.
For his part, Luckett says he hadn’t caused any problems and that he merely presented justifiable complaints to another volunteer in charge of the machines at the arcade.
“I asked him to fix several machines that day,” Luckett said. “I got angry at him because I wanted him to fix Xenon within a relatively short period of time and he didn’t. The voice box was shot. It wouldn’t talk. The bumpers weren’t working at all.”
In a recent phone interview, Luckett said that he wouldn’t leave the establishment because Arnold owed him several dollars for credits won on the machine. (In court documents Luckett refers to pinball games as gambling devices). But since the Pinball Hall of Fame is not a casino, it’s prohibited from awarding monetary prizes for game wins. Arnold says he offered to add credits to another machine and return Luckett his initial 50 cents, but that Luckett refused and became angry.
Then things apparently escalated. Verbal push came to physical shove. A friend of Luckett’s called Metro.
After interviewing both parties, the police gave Luckett a written notice for trespassing and told him he was not allowed back on the property. Luckett says he demanded that Arnold be placed under citizen’s arrest.
“Of course, I was falsely denied that legal right,” he states in the court documents.
Luckett also states in the court filing that he could have died had he fallen and hit his head after being pushed by Arnold.
Now, Luckett wants his money, as much as the judge or jury will give him, he says. And not just from Arnold.
The day Luckett filed suit against the pinball group, he also filed lawsuits against the Gold Spike hotel (where he allegedly fell while getting out of the shower), Goodyear Tire (his tires allegedly blew out) and Howard Johnson (he allegedly suffered bedbug bites on his legs while staying at a Howard Johnson hotel in Florida). Since 1998, he’s filed more than 15 lawsuits in Nevada. Most recently, Luckett has filed suit against Brother Manufacturing over a fax machine he says jams his court documents.
Luckett is seemingly indiscriminate in his litigation: He has sued banks, restaurants, individuals, a car dealership and a time-share company (for a cruise he didn’t get). Some have been thrown out; others get appealed multiple times. Luckett says he has won suits and made money from out-of-court settlements. And he says that he doesn’t like being called a “vexatious litigant.”
“I have a lot of good cases that have a lot of merit, and I can’t file them in California,” Luckett says. “I don’t file frivolous lawsuits. I’ve just had a bad experience of the whole world trying to screw me. I have had a lot of horrible things happen.”
Luckett says that courts throughout the country are trying to “screw” him. He is prohibited from filing in Justice Court here in Clark County without an attorney, and his attorney must receive permission before filing suit on his behalf.
Representation for Arnold and the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club have filed a motion to dismiss the complaints, but the case of Luckett v. Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club remains open, though one complaint—fraud— has been dismissed.
Arnold says that regardless of what happens with Luckett, the organization and the arcade will be okay, but that the legal fees are putting a dent in the amount of money from pinball machine proceeds that the nonprofit group donates to charity.
But, he adds, reiterating the words on signs and notices inside the Pinball Hall of Fame, “We’re for amusement only.”