Oklahoma SCT Overrules Bittle v. Bahe

Here is the opinion in Sheffer v. Buffalo Run Casino.

From the court’s syllabus:

Charles Sheffer, Jennifer Sheffer, and their minor son, J.S., were injured when their 18-wheeler tractor trailer collided with a rental vehicle leased to William Garris and driven by David Billups, both employees of Carolina Forge Company, L.L.C. Plaintiffs sued Carolina Forge on theories of respondeat superior and negligent entrustment. They also sued the Buffalo Run Casino, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, and PTE, Inc. for dram-shop liability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Carolina Forge, finding as a matter of law Carolina Forge was not liable for its employees’ actions under a theory of respondeat superior and did not negligently entrust the rental vehicle to its employees. The trial court also dismissed, sua sponte, the Buffalo Run Casino, PTE, Inc., and the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, determining that injunctions issued by the Honorable Lee R. West in the Western District of Oklahoma in Case No. 10-CV-00050-W and Case No. 10-CV-01339-W, prohibited suit for any tort claims against a tribe or a tribal entity. Plaintiffs appealed both orders, and we retained the appeals. In Sheffer v. Carolina Forge Co., 2013 OK 48, 306 P.3d 544, we reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Carolina Forge and found issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on both the respondeat superior and negligent entrustment claims. In the present case, we find the Peoria Tribe is immune from suit in state court for compact-based tort claims because Oklahoma state courts are not courts of competent jurisdiction as the term is used in the model gaming compact. We also hold that because Congress has not expressly abrogated tribal immunity from private, state court dram-shop claims and because the Peoria Tribe and its entities did not expressly waive their sovereign immunity by applying for and receiving a liquor license from the State of Oklahoma, the tribe is immune from dram-shop liability in state court. The trial court’s dismissal of the Peoria Tribe and its entities is affirmed.


2 thoughts on “Oklahoma SCT Overrules Bittle v. Bahe

  1. vance gillette October 30, 2013 / 7:32 pm

    Injuries on tribal land or at casino. Good job by tribal attorneys in Oklahoma, and New Mexico and Florida. The state lacks authority over disputes arising on Indian land. And, a tribe can provide
    a forum and remedy via the tribal court. But, some try to disregard tribal authority and blindly maintain a ‘casino’ case belongs in a state court.

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