Slate’s Law Blog

Premises Liability Cases Involving Accidents on Tribal Lands

Where an accident happens is an important factor in a personal injury case. For example, if a resident of another state gets injured in a car accident in New Mexico, then the courts of New Mexico have jurisdiction to rule on any lawsuits that may arise from the accident. Likewise, if you get injured while traveling out of state, the place to file a personal injury lawsuit is the state where the accident happened. Personal injury lawyers can only represent clients who filed lawsuits in the state where the lawyer is licensed to practice. 

With premises liability cases, the location is of the utmost importance. You have the right to file a premises liability lawsuit against the owner of the property where your injury occurred if the cause of the accident was the property owner’s negligence, including but not limited to failing to keep the premises in safe condition. If the accident took place at a place of business in New Mexico, you have the right to file a premises liability lawsuit in New Mexico court. Things are slightly more complicated, though, if the accident took place at a place of business on land belonging to a Native American tribe within New Mexico’s borders. If you suffered an accidental injury at a place of business on tribal land, contact a Santa Fe slip-and-fall and premises liability lawyer.

Premises Liability Lawsuits Against New Mexico Native American Tribes

Most state laws do not apply on tribal lands; only federal laws apply. This is why casino gaming and sports betting establishments flourish on lands owned by some of New Mexico’s 23 Native American tribes, making them popular tourist destinations. Accidents can happen at any place of business open to the public, and some have happened on tribal lands. Until recently, a provision in the law allowing for gambling establishments on tribal lands gave New Mexico courts the authority to rule on premises liability lawsuits involving businesses on tribal land.  In January 2024, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the state courts of New Mexico no longer have that authority; it based its decision on a precedent set by two recent rulings by federal courts.

The two cases that set the precedent were Pueblo of Santa Ana v. Nash in 2013 and Navajo Nation v. Dalley in 2018. The former case was a dram shop liability claim in which two wedding guests died in a car accident after leaving a wedding reception on tribal land, where the banquet servers continued serving them alcohol after they could no longer drive. The latter case involves a slip-and-fall accident at a casino. As the result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision, a pending lawsuit involving an electrician struck by a door while working at a building on tribal land cannot go through the New Mexico courts.

Contact Slate Stern About Slip and Fall Accident Lawsuits

Slate Stern is a personal injury lawyer who represents plaintiffs injured in preventable accidents at casinos on tribal lands. Contact Slate Stern in Santa Fe, New Mexico or call (505)814-1517 to discuss your case.

Photo by Michael Kirsh on Unsplash