Attorney: Falls at Foxwoods may be underreported

Mashantucket — A Waterford attorney representing the estate of a 22-year-old Rhode Island man who died a year ago in an accidental fall from a 14th-floor hotel room balcony at Foxwoods Resort Casino believes such falls from “elevated areas” at the casino may be underreported.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed last month in Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court, the attorney, James Harrington, alleges Foxwoods, “its agents, servants and/or employees” were negligent in the death of Alonzo Depina of Warwick, who fell from the casino's Grand Pequot Hotel.

A Foxwoods maintenance worker discovered Depina’s body early on the morning of Oct. 4, 2016, tribal police reported at the time. The incident occurred two weeks after an armed man died after falling from the fourth floor of a Foxwoods parking garage during a confrontation with police.

The Mashantuckets own the casino.

The Depina suit claims Foxwoods staff failed to secure a door to the balcony of Room 1470 even though they were aware that Depina and other occupants of the room had consumed alcohol “both in the room and in the casino earlier that evening” and that the width of the balcony ledge and the height and width of a balcony railing rendered the balcony unsafe.

The suit further alleges the balcony failed to meet applicable building and fire codes.

An attorney for Foxwoods, Edward Gasser of Avon, denied the suit’s allegations in an Oct. 18 filing with the court, writing that Depina’s injuries resulted from his own “carelessness and negligence,” that he “failed to be watchful of his surroundings” and “failed to make reasonable use of his faculties.”

Gasser did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Harrington, in the suit, references “a history of persons having previously fallen and/or jumping from balconies and other elevated areas upon the property.”

"Anecdotally, as one who practices there (Mashantucket tribal court), I've heard that people have committed suicide or fallen there but there doesn't seem to be any record of them," Harrington said. "We strongly suspect these incidents occur more frequently than Foxwoods would have the public believe ..."

Coincidentally, a Foxwoods patron was seriously injured Oct. 24 in an early-morning fall from a casino escalator. Foxwoods has confirmed that such an incident occurred but has provided no details, citing an ongoing investigation that involves a review of surveillance footage.

Harrington, of the firm Polito & Associates, continues to represent victims in a 2011 car crash that involved a Mohegan Sun limousine driver. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, with the high court siding with Harrington’s clients in an 8-0 decision that placed limits on tribal sovereignty. The case was returned to New London Superior Court, where a final outcome is pending.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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