Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Native American Law
Wilkes v. PCI Gaming Authority
Casey Wilkes and Alexander Russell appealed the grant of summary judgment favor of PCI Gaming Authority d/b/a Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka ("Wind Creek-Wetumpka"), and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (collectively as "the tribal defendants"), on negligence and wantonness claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell seeking compensation for injuries they received when an automobile driven by Wilkes was involved in a collision with a pickup truck belonging to Wind Creek Wetumpka and being driven by Barbie Spraggins, an employee at Wind Creek-Wetumpka. In the interest of justice, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity beyond the circumstances in which the Supreme Court of the United States itself has applied it. The judgment of the trial court holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell based on the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity was accordingly reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilkes v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law
Harrison v. PCI Gaming Authority
Benjamin Harrison was injured during the early morning hours of March 1, 2013, when, as a passenger, he was involved in an automobile accident following a high-speed police chase on a portion of a county roadway that traverses land held by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe") in Escambia County. The driver of the vehicle in which Benjamin was a passenger, Roil Hadley, had consumed alcohol while he was a patron at Wind Creek Casino during the evening of February 28, 2013, and the early morning hours of March 1, 2013. Amanda Harrison, as mother and next friend of Benjamin, sued the tribal defendants and two individuals, alleging the tribal defendants were responsible for negligently or wantonly serving alcohol to Hadley despite his being visibly intoxicated and asserted, among other claims, claims against the tribal defendants under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds they were immune under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, and that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Tribal Court held exclusive jurisdiction over the claims. The Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal immunity to actions in tort, in which the plaintiff had no opportunity to bargain for a waiver and no other avenue for relief. The Court similarly concluded the judgment entered by the trial court was reversed. The case was remanded for the circuit court to consider a related issue pertaining to an asserted lack of adjudicative, or "direct" subject-matter jurisdiction by the circuit court thus addressing the tribal defendants’ position that the claim in this case arose on Indian land, but Benjamin's fatal injuries occurred on an Escambia County Road. Also, the Court directed the circuit court to consider whether subject-matter jurisdiction is affected by the fact that the alleged tortious conduct of the tribal defendants entails a violation of Alabama's statutory and regulatory scheme for the sale of alcohol in Alabama, a scheme to which Congress has expressly declared the Tribe to be subject. View "Harrison v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law
Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al.
Jerry Rape appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of his action alleging breach of contract and various tort claims against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe”), PCI Gaming Authority, Creek Indian Enterprises, LLC, and Creek Casino Montgomery ("Wind Creek Casino" or "Wind Creek") (collectively, "the tribal defendants") and casino employees James Ingram and Lorenzo Teague and fictitiously named defendants. Rape and his wife visited Wind Creek Casino one evening in 2010. Rape placed a five-dollar bet at a slot machine, and managed to win the jackpot totaling $1,377,015.30. The screen displayed a prompt to "call an attendant to verify winnings." Rape alleged that at that point he was approached and congratulated by casino employees and patrons and that one casino employee said to him: "[D]on't let them cheat you out of it." Rape alleged that the machine printed out a ticket containing the winning amount of $1,377,015.30 but that casino representatives took possession of the ticket and refused to return it to him. Rape alleged that he was made to wait into the early morning hours with no information provided to him, even though he saw several individuals entering and leaving the room, presumably to discuss the situation. In his complaint, Rape stated that he "was taken into a small room in the rear of [Wind Creek Casino] by casino and/or tribal officials, where he was told, in a threatening and intimidating manner, that the machine in question 'malfunctioned,' and that [Rape] did not win the jackpot of $1,377,015.30. [Rape] was given a copy of an 'incident report,' and left [Wind Creek Casino] empty-handed approximately 24 hours after winning the jackpot." Rape sued the defendants alleging breach of contract; unjust enrichment; misrepresentation; suppression; civil conspiracy; negligence and/or wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision; respondeat superior; and spoliation of evidence. For each claim, Rape requested damages in the amount of the jackpot he had allegedly won. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal: “[o]n the one hand, if the dispute here arises from activity determined to be ‘permitted by Federal law’ and thus to be the subject of a congressional delegation of ‘regulatory authority’ to the Tribe, then disputes arising out of the same would . . .likewise be a legitimate adjudicative matter for the Tribe, and the circuit court's dismissal of Rape's claims would have been proper on that basis. But conversely, even if it were to be determined that the gaming at issue were illegal under the provisions of IGRA and therefore not the subject of an ‘express congressional delegation’ of regulatory authority to the Tribe, it would be that very illegality that would also prevent our state courts from providing relief to Rape. . . .Under the unique circumstances of this case, therefore, there is no analytical path to an award of relief for Rape.” View "Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al." on Justia Law