As a California Personal Injury Lawyer I feel I have a duty to inform all about California consumers lack of any real legal remedy if you suffer a Personal Injury at anyone of California’s numerous Indian Casinos.
If you have been the victim of a Personal Injury, or if you suffer a Slip and fall at an Indian Casino, you may have a potential court case, you may have a claim that will be headed to the tribal council, you may have a case that will go to private arbitration, you may have a case that will be determined by a private insurance company claims adjuster, or maybe you have a case that will literally give you no legal remedy.
Just 14 years after Gov. Pete Wilson signed the first compact with a tribe allowing Las Vegas-style slot machines in California, personal injury and property damage consumer protections in Indian casinos are all over the place respect to consumer rights and remedies in personal injury cases.
Every one of the 56 Class III gaming tribes within the State of California features its own specific tort liability ordinance spelling out how it will process personal injury cases.
The California State Bureau of Gambling Control states that many tribes authorize risk managers or their insurance companies to decide a claim’s validity. Some allow patrons to appeal case denials to tribal courts or to councils of tribal elders. Some others will take disputes to arbitration. Almost all do not recognize a role for California’s trial courts.
Each Indian Tribe is basic its own sovereign government. They do not have to follow California law on personal injury and most if not all don’t.
Due to this problem there are very few of us California Personal Injury Lawyers that will take on Personal Injury cases that occur on Indian Casinos.
I myself reject the vast majority of cases that come to me involving Indian Casinos, because without a standardized arbitration ordinance or something to that affect, they are too much of a hassle to deal with.
I have heard stories of Indian Casino cases taking many months or even years to get resolved, much longer than cases in the normal California court system. Many of the elderly victims who are claimants in these cases either give up or die before having their cases resolved.
Another issue with Indian Casino cases is that the people being sued are also the ones who are deciding the merits of the case. It is analogous to suing a Judge and then having that same Judge determine the outcome of the case in which he is being sued. How you do think that is going to turn out?
Appeals Courts have rejected Indian Casinos being sued in State Court stating that sovereign immunity precluded it from being sued in State Court.
What is bizarre to me is that the State of California negotiated compacts with the Indian Casinos allowing them to place Las Vegas style slot machines in the casinos, yet they did not provide a standard legal path for patrons of these casinos to take if they are injured within the Indian Casino.
I myself think it is time to either re-negotiate these compacts, or boycott the Casinos until the Indian Tribes themselves agree to standardized legal remedies for persons injured at their casinos.
I am calling on all California Indian Casinos to come sit at a table and discuss this situation so that a resolution can be reached to ensure California consumers that they are safe at your establishments.
By California Personal Injury Attorney Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq., © May 18, 2012