Supreme Court situation could expose Indian tribes to brand new appropriate dangers

Supreme Court situation could expose Indian tribes to brand new appropriate dangers


Professor of Law & Director for the native Law & Policy Center, Michigan State University

Disclosure statement

Matthew L.M. Fletcher works well with eight Indian tribes being a judge that is appellateGrand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Nottawaseppi Huron Band of this Potawatomi, Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, and Santee Sioux Tribe). He could be associated with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians as a member that is enrolled.


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Accidents happen. And quite often the employees are involved by those accidents of Indian tribes. The Supreme Court is planned to listen to situation which will rule regarding the the restrictions of appropriate resistance of tribes and their employees. The case could expose Indian tribes to unexpected – and significant – liability in state and federal courts to which tribes are strangers although it deals with a narrow question in a personal injury lawsuit.

The Supreme Court will address whether a tribal casino employee – in this case, a limo driver – can be sued for an accident that occurred while the employee was on the clock but outside of Indian lands in Lewis v. Clarke.

As being a scholar, We have examined the complexities of tribal immunity that is sovereign tribal government-owned organizations as well as the unique challenges Indian tribes face in federal and state courts. My research leads us to think the results associated with the full situation is essential as it could set a precedent that will damage tribes’ ability to govern.

The backdrop

In belated 2011, a Mohegan Sun Casino limousine motorist rear-ended Brian and Michelle Lewis’ car on I-95 near Norwalk, Connecticut, hurting the few into the collision. Typically, under Connecticut legislation, hurt individuals have 2 yrs to register an injury that is personal in state court.

Under Mohegan legislation, but, the statute of restrictions duration is the one 12 months, maybe not two.

For reasons unclear into the general public record, the Lewis couple failed to bring a suit until couple of years following the event, in 2013. They brought the suit to Connecticut courts since it was too late to sue in tribal court.

And right right here’s the sc sc sc rub, legitimately talking: Indian tribes can’t be sued in state court without their permission. This provision is what’s known as “sovereign immunity. ” Us constitutional legislation teaches that federal and state governments is not sued in court absent their consent, a doctrine that predates the forming of the Constitution. Certainly, Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 81 put down this concept in 1788.

Counsel when it comes to Lewis couple most most likely knew tribes take pleasure in the exact same resistance and thought we would sue the limo motorist rather of this tribe, the driver’s manager during the time of the collision.

Accidental injury lawyers have a tendency to seek out deep pouches that may spend a million buck judgment,

So a suit against a limo motorist does not look like an absolute strategy in the event that objective is a big payout. It seems the Lewises’ attorney thinks the tribe shall step up to produce good a judgment against its worker.

That lawyer may be appropriate. For company reasons, in the event that Mohegan tribe would like to retain employees that are good it might be forced to spend cash damages awarded by an official state court, as one tribe argued in a youthful instance. In case a tribe does not provide appropriate defenses to a member of staff, much just how other organizations would, it may have a chilling impact by exposing workers to undue danger.

The Mohegan Sun is amongst the two biggest tribal-owned gambling enterprises in the usa. AP Photo/Jessica Hill

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