Updated: March 22, 2014 at 11:31 am
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The family of Bryan Lee Glenn is asking a federal appeals court to let them pursue a wrongful death lawsuit that alleges a Biloxi, Miss., casino kept serving drinks to the man while he was drunk.
Glenn, 30, collapsed in his hotel room at the IP Casino resort the night of Aug. 6, 2009, and died the next day of alcohol poisoning combined with prescription medications, court records show.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, Miss., by Glenn's mother, Joanne Glenn, of LaCrosse, Va., in July 2012. The lawsuit sought $75 million in damages. At the time of Glenn's death, the casino was known as Imperial Palace; Boyd Gaming bought it in 2011.
Glenn and his mother and brother lived in nearby Long Beach, Miss., but lost everything to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and settled in LaCrosse, Va. They returned to Mississippi with a friend in August 2009 to pick up Glenn's check from a settlement in an unrelated lawsuit and to look for a place to live. They were staying at the IP Casino Resort.
Glenn had taken prescription painkillers as well as anti-psychotic medications in the weeks before his death, the lawsuit said. He was being treated for physical injuries as well as psychosis and hallucinations. Glenn had suffered a brain injury in a 2004 four-wheeler accident and back injuries in a 2007 car wreck.
Joanne Glenn argued that the casino was told about her son's condition but kept serving him.
The casino's attorneys argued that the case fell under Mississippi's "dram shop" law. The law holds businesses liable if they serve alcohol to a patron who is visibly drunk and then kills or injures someone else.
But attorneys for IP Casino Resort argue that past state court rulings have said the law "is not intended for the protection of visibly intoxicated patrons, as opposed to persons injured by visibly intoxicated patrons."
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden dismissed the lawsuit in August 2013, saying he agreed with the casino's lawyers that the state law didn't apply. In his ruling, Ozerden said Glenn had voluntarily consumed alcohol for up to 12 hours. "The facts of this case are unfortunate," he said, though siding with the casino.
Joanne Glenn appealed Ozerden's decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel is scheduled to hear oral arguments on April 2 in New Orleans.
In briefs filed with the 5th Circuit, attorneys for Joanne Glenn argued that if the lawsuit is reinstated they intend to show the casino "had notice that Bryan was in distress, that it breached its duty to render aid and but for that breach, Bryan would have lived."
They said the casino ignored the family's pleas to quit serving Glenn and he became "so ill from the poison plied on him all day and night that he should have been given aid, rather than forced to his room alone."
Attorneys for Boyd Gaming said Mississippi law has never allowed persons injured by their own voluntary intoxication to pursue civil claims for their injuries.
The casino also argued Mississippi law does not require a business selling alcohol to call for medical help when a patron is "visibly intoxicated." The law, they said, does not provide a requirement for dealing with a patron who is drinking while on medication.
"An 'actual injury' caused by the premises owner must be present before a duty to render aid can arise, and intoxication, like dementia, is not an 'actual injury,' regardless of whether a patron chooses to become intoxicated against the advice of his physician or pharmacist," the casino says.