A Norwich woman severely injured after the car she was driving was struck head on by an alleged drunken motorist has received a $1.45 million settlement.
Andrea Bettencourt received the check from the estate of Mose Jones Friday. Jones was killed in the accident.
Attorneys for Bettencourt also have two separate lawsuits pending against the Mohegan Sun Tribal Gaming Authority alleging it recklessly dispensed liquor to Jones at the casino before the accident. The lawsuits are pending in New London Superior Court and with Mohegan Tribal Court. The lawsuit against the Jones estate was filed in February.
Robert Reardon, Bettencourt’s attorney, said the casino should be held liable for the accident because they allegedly allowed Jones to drink an excessive amount of liquor. Jones’ autopsy revealed he had a blood alcohol reading of 0.39, nearly five times the legal limit, which is 0.08. The incident occurred in January 2016.
Jones, Reardon said, was considered a high roller by the casino and therefore was allowed to consume as many drinks as he wanted free of charge. Jones had been drinking at the casinos’ Sachem’s Lounge.
“Our position is he was drinking nonstop for three to four hours,” said Reardon, a partner with The Reardon Law Firm in New London. “He was grossly intoxicated.”
Reardon said Sachem’s Lounge has a small seating and bar area and the bartender had to be aware Jones was intoxicated. “Our main argument against the casino is that they have to exercise more care on how many drinks people are getting when they are not paying for them. He received far more liquor than any reasonable bartender should have allowed him to receive and consume.”
Reardon said he doesn’t know what type of insurance Sachem’s Lounge has, noting that will be learned in discovery.
In Connecticut, bars have the option of having dram shop insurance. The state’s dram shop law says that a dram shop action cannot be based on mere negligence. A vendor must sell or give alcohol to an intoxicated person “recklessly” or “intentionally” in order for dram shop liability to arise.
Reardon said Tuesday it doesn’t matter to his case if the bar had dram shop insurance “because the casino has significant assets to pay any judgment. I’m sure the insurance was ample.”
Reardon and attorneys for the Jones estate settled the case Oct. 20.
Because of the accident, Bettencourt, 53, will never be able to work again, Reardon said. Bettencourt was a medical assistant. She sustained chronic pain to her leg and arm and has hearing loss, Reardon said. She underwent seven surgeries, including to her leg, arm and wrist, he said.
To date, Reardon said, Bettencourt has incurred about $171,000 in medical expenses.
While the $1.45 million settlement for his client is gratifying, Reardon said it’s not enough.
“Ms. Bettencourt has been through a terrible ordeal, but it’s not enough yet. We will continue to try to receive more compensation from the tribe,” Reardon said.
The 19-year-old casino has had several lawsuits filed against it for similar offenses. Reardon said his firm represented two such cases. One was settled in 2015 for $4 million, he said, In that case, Reardon said, a nightclub/restaurant owned by a tenant at the casino was liable.
The Jones estate was represented by Arthur Riccio, a partner with Riccio & Beletsky in East Haven. Riccio did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The Mohegan Sun Tribal Gaming Authority is represented by Robert Rhodes, a partner with Halloran & Sage in Westport. He also did not respond to a request for comment.
Assisting Reardon were partners Kelly Reardon and Joseph Barnes.