A wrongful death trial against a nightclub within the Mohegan Sun casino was close to beginning in a Connecticut courtroom on Jan. 15 as jury selection began. The plaintiffs in the wrongful death case, including the family of a 20-year-old woman who was killed in a highway crash in 2009, hinges in large part on whether the club over served alcohol to the driver of the other car and allowed him to drive away despite being intoxicated.
In March 2009, eight students at Connecticut College were heading for the airport to fly to Uganda, where they were going to take part in a humanitarian mission. Somewhere near the Mohegan Sun, a car going the wrong way on Interstate 395 crashed into the victims’ van. The driver of the van had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 and is currently serving a 75-month prison sentence.
The accident took the life of a 20-year-old member of the mission group and seriously injured at least four others. Those four survivors and relatives of the deceased woman later sued the owners and financial backers of Ultra 88, a nightclub within the casino, for wrongful death and personal injury. They say that the driver of the other car became so drunk at the club that he spent 90 minutes sleeping in his car before leaving the parking garage. Even with the nap, he was so disorientated that he went the wrong way out of the garage and ended up going south on the northbound side of I-395. This form of liability is covered under Connecticut’s dram shop law.
The Mohegan tribal government and executives of the Mohegan Sun were initially named as defendants in the lawsuits as well, but were dismissed from the case when the judge found they were protected by sovereign immunity.