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

Supreme Court instance 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 as an appellate judge (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Nottawaseppi Huron Band for 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 being an enrolled user.


Michigan State University provides money as a founding partner associated with Conversation US.

Accidents happen. And quite often those accidents include the staff of Indian tribes. The Supreme Court is planned to listen to a full instance which will rule in the the limitations 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.

In Lewis v. Clarke, the Supreme Court will deal with whether a tribal casino worker – in this instance, a limo driver – may be sued for an accident that occurred as the worker had been in the clock but away from Indian lands.

As being a scholar, We have examined the complexities of tribal sovereign resistance, tribal government-owned companies as well as the unique challenges Indian tribes face in federal and state courts. My research leads me personally to think the end result associated title loans in Tennessee with full situation is essential as it could set a precedent that will weaken 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 within the collision. Usually, under Connecticut law, hurt folks have 2 yrs to file an injury that is personal in state court.

Under Mohegan legislation, nevertheless, the statute of limits period is certainly one 12 months, perhaps 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. They brought the suit to Connecticut courts since it was too late to sue in tribal court.

And right here’s the sc sc rub, lawfully talking: Indian tribes can 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 forming of the Constitution. Certainly, Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 81 lay out this concept in 1788.

Counsel for the Lewis couple most most likely knew tribes benefit from the same resistance and made a decision to sue the limo driver alternatively of this tribe, the driver’s company during the time of the collision.

Injury lawyers have a tendency to seek out deep pouches that will spend a million dollar judgment, so a suit against a limo driver does not look like an absolute strategy if the objective is really a payout that is large. It seems the Lewises’ attorney thinks the tribe will step up in order to make good a judgment against its worker.

That attorney may be appropriate. For company reasons, in the event that Mohegan tribe really wants to retain employees that are good it may possibly be obligated to spend cash damages granted by an official state court, as one tribe argued in a youthful situation. In cases where a tribe does not provide appropriate defenses to a worker, much just how other companies would, it might have chilling impact by exposing employees to undue danger.

The Mohegan Sun is just one of the two biggest casinos that are tribal-owned the usa. AP Photo/Jessica Hill

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