Litigation

Tunica-Biloxi Tribe casino employees face suit for fatal crash




The Paragon Casino Resort in Marksville, Louisiana. Photo from Paragon Casino Resort / Google+

Three employees of the casino owned by the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe aren't entitled to sovereign immunity in a drunken driving lawsuit, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.

The lawsuit accuses a bartender and two security guards at the Paragon Casino Resort of negligence. The bartender allegedly served a drunk customer and the security guards allegedly escorted the man to his car before he struck and killed another motorist in July 2013.

The tribe and the casino enjoy immunity from the lawsuit, the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruled. But the doctrine does not extend to employees in this particular situation, the decision stated.

"The reason for extending sovereign immunity to tribal officials and employees is to protect an Indian tribe's treasury and prevent a plaintiff from bypassing tribal immunity by naming a tribal official or employee," Judge Billy Edward Ezell wrote. "However, while a state court may not exercise jurisdiction over a recognized Indian tribe, a state court does have authority to adjudicate the rights of individual defendants when personal jurisdiction is proper."

The family of the man who was killed in the accident, Blake Zaunbrecher, also filed an identical lawsuit in tribal court. The tribe sought a stay of the case in the state court while the tribal lawsuit proceeds, an issue that will be considered upon remand.

Get the Story:
Court rules 3 Paragon employees not entitled to immunity in fatal crash lawsuit (The Alexandria Town Talk 12/17)

Louisiana Court of Appeal Decision:
Zaunbrecher v. Succession of David (December 9, 2015)