Buzulis v. Mohegan Sun Casino
Massachusetts Appeals Court
871 N.E.2d 527, 69 Mass. App. Ct. 708 (2007)
The Mohegan Tribe (the tribe) was a federally recognized Indian tribe in Connecticut that did business as the Mohegan Sun Casino (Mohegan Sun) (defendant). The tribe’s gaming compact with the State of Connecticut authorized the tribe to establish procedures for resolving tort claims brought by patrons of the tribe’s gaming facilities. The compact further provided that the tribe would not be deemed to have waived its sovereign immunity with respect to such tort claims. The tribe’s constitution provided that the tribe’s Gaming Disputes Court had exclusive jurisdiction over disputes arising out of gaming operations. Mohegan Sun advertised and marketed in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts residents provided a significant amount of Mohegan Sun’s daily revenue. On July 7, 2002, Massachusetts resident Sheila Buzulis (plaintiff) was allegedly injured at Mohegan Sun when a security guard ran into Buzulis in the coatroom and knocked her down. Roughly one week later, a representative of Buzulis and her husband (plaintiff) contacted Mary Lou Hoopman (defendant), director of Mohegan Sun’s risk-management division (the division) (defendant), to inquire about filing a personal-injury claim against Mohegan Sun. Hoopman allegedly failed to inform the representative that a personal-injury claim had to be filed in the Gaming Disputes Court within 270 days. In June 2004, the Buzulises brought an action in Massachusetts state court against Mohegan Sun, the division, Hoopman, and the security guard. The Buzulises asserted claims including negligence, deceit, assault and battery, and loss of consortium. Mohegan Sun, the division, Hoopman, and the security guard moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, asserting tribal sovereign immunity. During proceedings in the trial court, no evidence was presented about the relationships or connections between Mohegan Sun and the division, Hoopman, or the security guard. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the appellate division affirmed, finding that the Gaming Disputes Court had exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. The Buzulises appealed to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. At oral argument, Mohegan Sun’s counsel indicated for the first time that Hooper and the security guard were Mohegan Sun employees and that the division was a segment of Mohegan Sun.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kantrowitz, J.)
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