Connecticut | Litigation
Mohegan Tribe wants gaming disputes resolved in own judicial system



The Mohegan Tribe owns and operates the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Photo: Mohegan Sun

The Mohegan Tribe is putting a positive spin on a decision from the nation's highest court that revived a lawsuit against a former employee.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a limousine driver who was working for the Mohegan Sun casino is not entitled to the same sovereign immunity as the tribe. Despite the negative outcome in Lewis v. Clarke, the tribe believes the dispute could still end up being resolved within its own judicial system.

"Although the Supreme Court did not agree with the reasoning of the Connecticut Supreme Court, we are heartened that it left open the possibility that other legal principles may nonetheless require this suit against Mr. Clarke, a former employee of the Mohegan Tribe, to proceed in tribal court," the tribe's attorneys said in a statement to The New London Day.

The Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court in fact resolved other claims connected to the incident involving the driver, William Clarke. Two couples who were riding in his limousine at the time of a 2011 traffic accident reached settlements with the tribe.

But another couple -- Brian and Michelle Lewis -- went to state court instead. They were riding in another vehicle that was struck by the limousine and blamed the accident on Clarke.

"We are cognizant of the Supreme Court of Connecticut’s concern that plaintiffs not circumvent tribal sovereign immunity," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority in the 12-page decision. "But here, that immunity is simply not in play. Clarke, not the [Mohegan Tribal] Gaming Authority, is the real party in interest."

The outcome of the case was unanimous although two of the eight justices who heard the case would have resolved it on different grounds.

Read More on the Story:
U.S. Supreme Court rules Mohegan employee not immune from 'individual capacity' lawsuit (The New London Day 4/25)
High Court Kills Tribal Immunity for Casino Employees (Courthouse News 4/25)
Supreme Court Refuses To Extend Tribal Immunity To Casino Limo Driver (Forbes 4/25)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision:
Syllabus [Summary of Outcome] | Opinion [Sotomayor] | Concurrence [Thomas] | Concurrence [Ginsburg]

U.S. Supreme Court Documents:
Docket Sheet No. 15-1500 | Questions Presented | Oral Argument Transcript

Connecticut Supreme Court Decision:
Lewis v. Clarke (March 15, 2016)

Related Stories:
Jenn Weddle: 'Best possible result' from court in sovereignty case (April 26, 2017)
Supreme Court hands defeat to tribal interests in sovereignty case (April 25, 2017)
Supreme Court hears argument in lone Indian law case on docket (January 9, 2017)
Supreme Court schedules oral argument in tribal immunity case (December 6, 2016)
Matthew Fletcher: Supreme Court case poses new risks to tribes (November 14, 2016)
Supreme Court opens new term with tribal immunity on the docket (October 4, 2016)
Supreme Court accepts case involving Mohegan Tribe casino employee (September 29, 2016)
Mohegan Tribe casino worker wins case due to sovereign immunity (March 8, 2016)
Mohegan Tribe's casino employee faces lawsuit over accident (June 23, 2015)
Mohegan Tribe settles suit from injured casino patron for $775K (June 19, 2015)