Lewis v. Clarke
United States Supreme Court
137 S. Ct. 1285 (2017)
The Gaming Authority of the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut (tribe) operated casinos pursuant to an agreement with the State of Connecticut. The Mohegan Tribal Code contained an indemnification clause stating that the Gaming Authority would indemnify employees against any adverse negligence judgments arising from actions the employee took within the scope of their employment. William Clarke (defendant), a Mohegan Tribe member and Gaming Authority employee, was transporting casino patrons when he rear-ended Brian and Michelle Lewis’s (plaintiffs) car on Interstate 95. The accident occurred on state lands, not tribal lands, and it was undisputed that Clarke was at fault. The Lewises filed a negligence action in state court against Clarke in his individual capacity. Clarke moved to dismiss, arguing that the Lewises’ action was barred by tribal sovereign immunity because (1) Clarke was acting within the scope of his employment with the Gaming Authority when the accident occurred; and (2) under the Mohegan Tribal Code’s indemnification clause, the Gaming Authority, a tribal entity, was the real party in interest, not Clarke. The trial court denied Clarke’s motion to dismiss, holding that tribal immunity was not implicated because the Lewises sought damages solely against Clarke in his individual capacity. On appeal, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed, holding that tribal immunity applied to tribal employees, like Clarke, acting within the scope of their employment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Sotomayor, J.)
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