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Okla. High Court Holds Injured Casino Patrons Can Sue in State Courts

Posted Jul 13, 2009 12:47 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled that people injured in Chocktaw casinos can sue in state courts as well as tribal courts.

The tribe’s gaming contract with the state had permitted tort suits in “courts of competent jurisdiction” on a limited basis, but did not define the term, lawyer Daniel Walker told the Journal Record. His client had been injured by a casino shuttle cart.

Bob Rabon, who represented the Chocktaws, had maintained the contract gave the tribes exclusive jurisdiction in tort cases.

“I’ve been representing Indian tribes for 40 years, and this is probably the single most difficult blow for tribal sovereignty that I have ever seen in my career,” he said of the decision. “These tribes have never been subject to state court jurisdiction.”

Rabon said he is considering his options. “I’m not going to discuss what our strategy will be, but we’re not done. We’re not done by a long shot,” he said.

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