Brian and Michele Lewis, a couple from Pennsylvania, were injured in a collision involving a limousine owned by a casino that was driven by William Clarke. Their case progressed to the U.S. Supreme Court and was ultimately settled for $110,000. The Connecticut Supreme Court had previously found that the tribe was immune from such civil liability based on immunity afforded to the Mohegan Casino and Hotel. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that Clarke may be held liable individually.
About the Enterprise
The Mohegan Sun is one of two casinos in Connecticut just across the border from Rhode Island. Opened in 1996 by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, it has become a large regional destination for various forms of entertainment. It contains venues capable of holding up to 10,000 guests and has a WNBA basketball team now known as the Connecticut Sun.
The U.S. is now home to over 560 tribal governments. These tribes vary in size, with the largest having over 600,000 members. Legal counsel that represents a tribe and those representing entities doing business with a tribe face unique challenges of grasping their laws. These tribal communities have long been deemed as “domestic dependent sovereigns.” Similar to other governmental organizations, they are afforded sovereign immunity that shields them from civil liability. This immunity applies to those who compose the tribal government and employees that at the time are conducting work on behalf of the tribe.
The sovereign immunity has been found to extend to their activities that are outside of the physical confines of the reservation. Courts have recognized immunity in most of their commercial entities, schools, and more. This form of government-based immunity makes tribal entities immune to subpoenas and other orders that demand that information or witnesses be produced. There are certain instances were immunity may be waived, including when the organization has secured liability coverage for mitigating potential losses.
In the accident, the plaintiffs suffered head injuries that included “facial and nasal fractures.” Some of the facts regarding these types of injuries are:
- More than half of facial fractures involve the nasal structure that is composed of bones and cartilage
- Most commonly, these injuries are the result of being struck directly in the facial region
- Facial injuries are typically the result of car accidents, injuries occurring in sports, and as a result of an altercation
- Nasal fractures are usually treated surgically and commonly require a subsequent procedure for abnormalities that develop
- Data indicates that the risk of incurring fractures increases with age
- The majority of surgeons agree that facial fractures are generally unique and require individualized treatment in most cases
Following the settlement agreement, an attorney representing the plaintiffs expressed relief. He explained that the process should have been resolved years earlier. The Lewis' are expected to receive the funds within a period of thirty days. They went further to describe the process as being a very “long road” of court-related activity. It was reported that this case has been referenced more than 50 times in many court cases.