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

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

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


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

Disclosure statement

Matthew L.M. Fletcher works for 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 associated with the 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 connected to the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians as an enrolled user.


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Accidents happen. And quite often the employees are involved by those accidents of Indian tribes. The Supreme Court is scheduled to listen to situation that may rule regarding the the restrictions of appropriate resistance of tribes and their workers. 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, i’ve examined the complexities of tribal immunity that is sovereign tribal government-owned companies in addition to unique challenges Indian tribes face in federal and state courts. My research leads us to think the end result regarding the full situation is very important since it could set a precedent that could damage tribes’ ability to govern.

The back ground

In belated 2011, a Mohegan Sun Casino limousine driver rear-ended Brian and Michelle Lewis’ car on I-95 near Norwalk, Connecticut, injuring the few within the collision. Typically, under Connecticut legislation, hurt folks have couple of years to register a accidental injury claim in state court.

Under Mohegan legislation, nonetheless, the statute of restrictions period is certainly one year, maybe not two.

The Lewis couple did not bring a suit until two years after the incident, in 2013 for reasons not clear in the public record. Because it ended up being far too late to sue in tribal court, they brought the suit to Connecticut courts.

And right right right here’s the sc sc rub, lawfully talking: Indian tribes may not 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 can not be sued in court absent their consent, a doctrine that predates the synthesis of the Constitution. Certainly, Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 81 lay out this concept in 1788.

Counsel for the Lewis couple most likely knew tribes benefit from the exact same immunity and thought we would sue the limo motorist alternatively associated with tribe, the driver’s boss at the time of the collision.

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

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

That lawyer might be appropriate. For company reasons, in the event that Mohegan tribe really wants to retain good workers, it could be forced to spend cash damages granted by an official state court, as one tribe argued in a youthful situation. If your tribe doesn’t provide appropriate defenses to a member of staff, much the way in which other companies would, it may have loans angel loans promo codes chilling impact by exposing employees to undue danger.

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