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Victory in the United States Supreme Court!

Congratulations to James Harrington and our clients as a result of their victory in the United States Supreme Court today. In a unanimous 8-0 decision, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Connecticut Supreme Court in Lewis v. Clarke1, holding that a tribal employee sued in an individual capacity suit for a tort committed off the tribal reservation could not invoke the tribe’s sovereign immunity. The case stemmed from a 2011 motor vehicle accident in which the plaintiffs Brian and Michelle Lewis were struck by a Mohegan Sun owned and operated limousine which was transporting casino patrons on Interstate 95 in Norwalk. The Lewis’s, who had never stepped foot on the Mohegan reservation, sued Clarke individually in State Court. Clarke filed a Motion to Dismiss invoking his employer’s sovereign immunity.  The plaintiff’s countered arguing that because Clarke, not the Tribe,  was the “real party in interest”,  immunity did not attach. The Trial Court agreed, but was later reversed by the Conn. Supreme Court.

In reversing the Conn. Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court adopted the real party interest argument advocated by the plaintiffs and in doing so, have carved out an important limitation on tribal sovereign immunity. Both the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association (CTLA) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ) filed amicus briefs which were helpful to our cause.

It is our hope that this decision will assist all trial lawyers who represent persons injured on public highways as a result of the negligence of tribal employees.  We are particularly proud of the excellent lawyering performed by James Harrington of our firm whose brief to the Connecticut Supreme Court was essentially adopted by the United States Supreme Court.

[1] https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1500_h3cj.pdf