NM Supreme Court Allows Family to Sue Tribal Casino For Wrongful Death

The New Mexico Supreme Court has allowed a family to sue a Native American tribal casino.The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the family of two siblings who were killed in a car crash can seek damages against a Native American casino that reportedly served them alcohol after they were already intoxicated, according to The Associated Press.

Although Santa Ana Pueblo's casino argued the case should be handled in a tribal rather than state court, the Supreme Court disagreed in an unanimous decision. As a result, the family of Michael and Desiree Mendoza have been permitted to move forward with a wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Ana Star Casino.

The brother and sister were killed in a 2006 car crash after attending a wedding reception at the casino, the AP reports. The lawsuit claims their deaths were caused because casino workers continued to serve them alcohol after they were already drunk, which goes against a pueblo liquor license ordinance prohibiting the casino from serving alcohol to intoxicated people.

However, because the casino is licensed by the pueblo and not the state, it argued the state lacked jurisdiction over the lawsuit, reported the news source.

New Mexico has a "dram shop" law that permits claims against restaurants, bars or party hosts in the state who negligently serve their patrons too much alcohol.