Peoria tribe immune from lawsuit stemming from car accident

In Oklahoma, there is a law called dramshop liability. This means that an entity that serves alcohol in the state can be held liable if someone to whom they provided alcohol injures someone else. The law is intended to keep establishments from serving patrons to the point of inebriation and lower the number of drunk driving car accidents. However, Ponca City readers may be alarmed to learn that the Oklahoma high court has recently ruled that a casino cannot be sued on the grounds of dramshop liability.

In a vote of 5 to 4, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ruled that a couple could not sue a Peoria tribe casino because the casino is immune from suit in state court. The Peoria tribe did not give up the sovereign immunity because they did not apply for or receive a liquor license. Because of this, they cannot be held to the dramshop liability law.

The suit was a result of a 2006 accident where a man who had been drinking at the casino was involved in a collision with a tractor trailer. The man was killed in the accident, and the passengers in the tractor trailer, a couple and their son, were injured. The family has requested a hearing with respect to the Supreme Court's ruling, and if they are denied, state they are prepared to take the case to the highest law in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court. The family could not sue in tribal court because the one-year limit to file claims in tribal court expired several years ago.

The couple suffered injuries at the hands of another and have a right to be compensated for their losses. The problem stems from who should be held responsible. The obvious party would be the man who struck them with his vehicle, but for reasons that were not discussed this did not materialize. It makes sense that the family would also hold the casino accountable, since that is allegedly where the man was drinking, but state laws and immunity for tribal nations have made this an uphill battle as well. This is why a legal professional with experience in handling these complicated cases becomes an asset. These professionals can help an injured party plan their next move to receive the compensation to which they are entitled when it seems the legal system might be working against them.


Source: 
Muskogee Phoenix, "High court says Peoria Tribe immune from suit in auto accident" No author given, Oct. 28, 2013

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