HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Monday said tribal casinos are not immune from state laws pertaining to liquor sales.
Blumenthal submitted an amicus brief to the state Appellate Court asking the court to overturn a recent trial court ruling that exempted tribal casinos from certain liquor laws.
Blumenthal filed the brief in support of Emily Vanstaen-Holland and her mother, Susan Holland, who are suing the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority and others in connection with an accident in which Emily Vanstaen-Holland, a pedestrian, was struck by someone allegedly intoxicated after drinking at Mohegan Sun.
"Tribal sovereignty must yield to public health and safety laws, particularly liquor laws, intended to save lives," Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said tribal casinos are exempt from certain laws but must adhere to state public health safety laws such as the Dram Shop Act which aids in DUI enforcement and ensures that victims of drunk driving fatalities are compensated.
Blumenthal, a Democrat, said in recent years the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld tribal sovereignty only where it is limited and not across the board when it comes to all state laws.
"This case carries profound consequences for victims of drunk driving crashes involving casino patrons. Lives have been lost or damaged by intoxicated drivers leaving tribal casinos," he said.
"Intoxicated drivers must be held accountable, but tribal casinos must also accept responsibility for illegal and irresponsible alcohol sales just like other bars."
In March, a 23-year-old Navy sailor, who later reportedly told police that he had four or five drinks over the course of the evening at a Mohegan Sun club, struck a van carrying seven students headed to Boston's Logan Airport.
Elizabeth Durante, one of the traveling students, died at the scene.
Less than a month later, a local construction worker, who had been drinking at the same bar, struck and killed a 59-year-old Willimantic woman.