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Town of Ledyard v. WMS Gaming, Inc.

Appellate Court of Connecticut

September 17, 2019

TOWN OF LEDYARD
v.
WMS GAMING, INC.

         Argued May 21, 2019

Page 709

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 710

         The Superior Court, Judicial District of New London, Robert F. Vacchelli, J.

          Aaron S. Bayer, Hartford, with whom was David R. Roth, New Haven, for the appellant (defendant).

         Lloyd L. Langhammer, Norwich, for the appellee (plaintiff).

         DiPentima, C. J., and Keller and Noble, Js.

          OPINION

          NOBLE, J.

         [192 Conn.App. 838] In this action to collect unpaid personal property taxes, the defendant, WMS Gaming, Inc., appeals from the summary judgment as to liability only rendered by the trial court in favor of the plaintiff, the town of Ledyard, awarding it attorney’s fees pursuant to General Statutes § 12-161a.[1] The defendant’s sole claim on appeal is that the trial court improperly concluded that the defendant was liable for attorney’s fees incurred by the plaintiff while litigating a collateral action in federal court in addition to the fees incurred while pursuing

Page 711

this action. Specifically, it argues that the court improperly determined that the fees incurred in the collateral action were "as a result of and directly related to" this collection action within the meaning of § 12-161a. We agree and, accordingly, reverse the judgment of the trial court.

         [192 Conn.App. 839] The following facts and procedural history are relevant to this appeal. On August 3, 2006, two years prior to commencing the present action, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (Tribal Nation) filed an action in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut challenging the authority of the state of Connecticut and the plaintiff to impose property taxes on slot machines owned by Atlantic City Coin & Slot Co. (AC Coin) and leased to the Tribal Nation, for use in its gaming operations. In that complaint, the Tribal Nation alleged that the plaintiff lacked the authority to impose the property tax because such taxation is preempted by federal regulation of Indian gaming pursuant to both the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. § § 2701-2721 (IGRA), and the Final Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Procedures, 56 Fed.Reg. 24996 (May 31, 1991), and that the taxation was an illegal interference with the Tribal Nation’s sovereignty. The present action was filed on June 23, 2008, to collect unpaid personal property taxes for gaming equipment owned by the defendant and leased to the Tribal Nation for its gaming operations.

         Our Supreme Court, in a previous appeal from the judgment of this court, recited the following additional relevant facts and procedural history: "[T]he plaintiff [in the present action] sought $18,251.23 in unpaid personal property taxes, plus costs, interest, and penalties. ...


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