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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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Can a traffic accident victim sue an American Indian nation

Resolved Question:

Can a traffic accident victim sue an American Indian nation for damages in state court, based on the allegation that the nation's employee was the driver of the car that caused the damages?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Yes, a tribe can be liable in state court for damages from an accident that happens on a state roadway. See: Strate v. A-1 Contractors, 520 U.S. 438 at note 53(1997).

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for the case. Interesting. In that case, though, wasn't that a tribal court and the action against a nonmember? What if it is a state court action (not tribal) and the action is against the member or the tribe itself (rather than a nonmember)? I realize this is a really specific question - sorry
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
In the footnote, they state that the state would have rights over accidents on state roads and if they drive on state roads they subject themselves to state authority. No matter whether it was a tribe employee or not, in order to hold the tribe liable it has to be a tribe vehicle and if he was driving that vehicle on a state road, the state court has authority.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you. My apologies again, but I'm not finding the footnote - if you have it handy, would you please send me a quote of the language from it?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
But [a tribe's inherent power does not reach] beyond what is necessary to protect tribal self-government or to control internal relations." 450 U. S., at 564. Neither regulatory nor adjudicatory authority over the state highway accident at issue is needed to preserve "the right of reservation Indians to make their own laws and be ruled by them." at p.459