Man wins $500,000 in lawsuit By JESSICA DURKIN Norwich Bulletin MOHEGAN-- A tribal court has awarded a 49-year-old Groton man $500,000 in a personal injury lawsuit against Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, according to the man's attorney. New London attorney M. John Strafaci said he successfully argued his client, Frank Wilson Jr. was entitled to compensation for medical bills and lost wages from injuries sustained after Wilson fell from a broken slot machine chair at Mohegan Sun in 2001. The $499,613 award, made Sept. 26, was the largest amount of compensation decided through a verdict in Strafaci's more than 10 years of trying cases in the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan courts, he said. It was also the attorney's first case to end with a trial and verdict in tribal court. Wilson could not be reached for comment on the case. July 7, 2001, Wilson, then a full-time machinist at Electric Boat, was seated in a slot machine chair when the back of the chair broke. Wilson fell from the chair onto the floor and landed on his buttocks and back and was transported to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital in New London, court papers said. Wilson's injuries led to a surgical back procedure at Yale New Haven Hospital. Before the fall, Wilson had a 10-year history of back and neck pain from work-related personal injuries and injuries from one auto accident. As a result, Gaming Disputes Court had to decide the extent of Wilson's injuries as a result of his fall. There was "no significant worsening of the plaintiff's condition" attributable to the fall, court documents said, but the accident increased pain for the plaintiff, which precipitated the back surgery at Yale New Haven Hospital in 2002. Wilson incurred $35,354.65 in medical bills as a result of the fall. Court documents said that about a week and a half after the fall, Wilson was limited to light work at EB, and became unemployed four months later. "That was the focus, that this was a man, who may have had past medical problems, but was still able to support his family," Strafaci said. "But as the result of this broken chair and injuries sustained, he wasn't able to return to work as a machinist." The case was tried before Judge F. Owen Eagan for three days and included seven witnesses, according to court documents. Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority CEO Bill Velardo said: "In general, I'd say we have confidence in the judgment of the court." Wilson was entitled to 50 percent of total lost wages and medical expenses, which was the tribal ordinance cap on such awards at the time of Wilson's injury. Since then, the tribal council has raised the cap to 200 percent, according to the new ordinances. "If Mr. Wilson's injury happened today, the award would have been significantly more for pain and suffering," Strafaci said. "But half a million dollars is certainly substantial."