Landmark Ruling Says New Mexico Casinos Can’t be Sued in State Courts

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New Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that individual wounded claims against tribal casinos must beryllium heard successful tribal and not authorities courts. The ruling will beryllium welcomed by nan state’s tribes, which person agelong viewed nan rumor arsenic a mobility of sovereignty.

New Mexico Supreme Court, visitant protection, Pojoaque Pueblo, Buffalo Thunder CasinoThe Buffalo Thunder Casino successful Santa Fe, owned by nan Pojoaque Pueblo. An electrical worker sued nan casino aft an mishap successful 2016, which led to a landmark ruling successful nan authorities Supreme Court Tuesday. (Image: Santa Fe New Mexican)

Generally, successful nan US, ineligible claims arising from incidents that hap connected tribal lands autumn nether nan jurisdiction of tribal courts. But New Mexico was somewhat different because of a arguable “visitor protection” proviso that was inserted into nan tribes’ gaming compacts. This allowed specified cases to beryllium heard successful nan authorities District Court nether definite circumstances.

Sovereign Authority

Some civilian litigants would for illustration their cases to proceed done authorities courts because of nan cognition that they mightiness not get a adjacent proceeding and that tribal courts mightiness favour nan interests of nan casinos.

But advocates for greater tribal sovereignty reason that tribal courts are perfectly tin of handling specified matters reasonably and impartially.

They besides reason that nan national Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which codified tribal gaming authorities successful 1988, did not authorize authorities courts to workout jurisdiction complete individual wounded claims against nan casinos.

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Tuesday’s landmark ruling stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Jeremiah Sipp, an worker of Dial Electric, which sold lights to nan Buffalo Thunder Casino successful Santa Fe.

Sipp sued nan casino’s owner, nan Pueblo of Pojoaque, successful nan authorities court in 2016 alleging that he was injured while delivering lights aft a casino worker abruptly lowered a car shed doorway onto his head. Sipp claimed he was knocked unconscious and suffered a cervical spine wounded that required awesome surgery.

Unanimous Decision

The Pojoaque Pueblo asked nan authorities Supreme Court to find nan mobility of jurisdiction successful nan case. On Tuesday, nan tribunal ruled unanimously for nan tribe, pointing to erstwhile decisions successful 2 national cases, which it said efficaciously terminated nan visitant protection provision.

One progressive a suit against nan Santa Ana Star Casino successful Bernalillo, N.M. which accused nan casino of over-serving intoxicant resulting successful a fatal car accident. ‘

The different was brought by a plaintiff who slipped and fell astatine nan Navajo Northern Edge Casino successful Farmington, N.M. The US Supreme Court declined to perceive that lawsuit aliases overturn nan little tribunal ruling that jurisdiction belonged pinch nan Navajo Nation.

The Pueblo of Pojoaque is very happy to person this important ruling which decently ends tribal gaming tort-claims jurisdiction-shifting to New Mexico authorities courts,” pueblo Gov. Jenelle Roybal wrote successful a connection to The Santa Fe New Mexican.

“This determination vindicates nan sovereign authority of each Indian Pueblos and Nations successful New Mexico and confirms that nan State is bound by its gaming compact pinch us. We look guardant to implementation of this determination going forward,” Roybal added.

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