A Florida appeals court upheld the sovereignty of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, haltingĀ litigation against the tribe in a civil wrongful death lawsuit.

The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal tossed a lawsuit filed by Victoria Velasquez seeking damages from the Seminole Tribe in the death of her husband. Velasquezā€™s husband, Roselindo, was struck and killed in 2006 while walking across the street after leaving the tribeā€™s Immokalee casino. An employee at the casino had been driving.

Velasquez argued in her lawsuit that the tribe was liable for her husbandā€™s death because the driver worked for them, butĀ Florida law states thatĀ Indian tribes areĀ immune from actions in civil court as sovereign governments, unlessĀ a tribe consents to take part, or is ordered by the U.S. Congress.

But Velasquez argued the Seminole Tribeā€™s compact with the state allowing gambling at its casinos makes the tribe susceptible to civil proceedings.

The 2nd DCA ruled in favor of the tribe saying, ā€œFlorida law is clear that the Indian tribes are independent sovereign governments not subject to the civil jurisdiction of the courts of this state.ā€ The courtā€™s ruling (.pdf) also states thatĀ the tribeā€™s compact with Florida government had no bearing on the lawsuit because the crash that killed Velasquez did not occur on Seminole Tribe property.

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