The Connecticut Supreme Court has overturned a Connecticut Appellate Court ruling in which the town of Ledyard was seeking attorney fees incurred for litigation in a dispute over whether WMS Gaming Inc. should have to pay the town personal property taxes on slot machines at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
The Connecticut Appellate Court agreed with a lower court that Ledyard, a small northeastern Connecticut town, was entitled to an undetermined amount of legal fees. The legal fees were incurred because Ledyard and Rocky Hill-based WMS Gaming disagreed on whether Ledyard was entitled to $18,251 in unpaid personal property taxes, interest, cost and penalties for having the slot machines it owned and leased at the casino, which is owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe. Eventually, the two sides entered into a stipulated agreement over the personal property taxes, but the issue of the legal fees Ledyard spent defending the matter remained in dispute. It’s not clear how much the small town spent on legal fees.
In a 5-0 ruling on Sept. 4, the Connecticut Supreme Court sided with WMS Gaming and reversed the lower appellate court’s ruling that had found Ledyard was entitled to legal fees.
Before a hearing to determine the amount of the attorney fee award, WMS Gaming raised a challenge before the Connecticut Appellate Court. WMS Gaming was challenging a Superior Court decision that it could find WMS Gaming liable for the town’s attorney fees in a federal action. The town then moved to dismiss the WMS Gaming appeal, claiming the appellate court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.
Ledyard claimed the gaming company didn’t appeal from a final judgment because the trial court had not yet determined the amount of attorney fees due to the town. The appellate court then granted the town’s motion and dismissed the WMS Gaming appeal. The gaming company then appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
In the 13-page decision, Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Robinson, who wrote the opinion, said the trial court’s decision with respect to attorney fees “pursuant to [Connecticut General Statutes] 12-161a resolved the only remaining dispute between the parties and did not support a previously rendered judgment. … Accordingly, we conclude that the appellate court improperly dismissed the defendant’s appeal for lack of a final judgment.” The Supreme Court remanded the case to the appellate court with orders to deny Ledyard’s motion to dismiss WMS Gaming’s appeal and for further proceedings.”
In addition, the Supreme Court wrote that the Appellate Court “improperly relied on a footnote” in another legal case in how and when attorney fees should be awarded.
Ledyard was represented by Lloyd Langhammer of the Law Office of Lloyd L. Langhammer LLC in New London. Langhammer did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Representing WMS Gaming were Aaron Bayer, a partner, and David Roth, an associate, at Wiggin & Dana. Neither attorney responded to a request for comment.