June 25th, 2013 Last Updated on: June 25th, 2013
On Friday, a Miami-Dade judge held the Miccosukee Tribe responsible for paying the $3.2M judgment against tribal member, Tammy Gwen Billie. Back in 1998, Billie was driving her dad’s uninsured vehicle when she was involved in a head-on collision, killing Liliana Bermudez, 30. During the court trial in 2009, the defendants, Billie and her father, Jimmie Bert, admitted liability and the jury awarded the Bermudez family a $3.2M judgment in their wrongful-death lawsuit. However, the defendants have maintained that they could not pay the judgment.
The Bermudez family attorney, Ramon M. Rodriguez asserted that since the Miccosukee Tribe paid $3.1M for the defendants’ legal defense and directed legal strategy, the tribe was inadvertently a “party” to the wrongful-death lawsuit even though they were not initially named as a defendant.
Lawyers for the tribe have countered with tribal sovereign immunity under federal law and could not be held liable but Miami-Dade Judge Ronald Dresnick disagreed, stating that the tribe could not hide behind that shield in a state level circuit court due to the fact that the tribe paid the defendants’ legal fees and directed legal strategy. Dresnick cited a Third District
Court of Appeal decision which involved a non-Native lawsuit to justify this ruling.
Carlos Bermudez, 44 and son Mathew, 16 teared up and hugged after hearing the judge’s decision. “It’s been a long time,” Carlos Bermudez said. The Miccosukees will appeal the ruling. Read the full article here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/21/3462160/miami-judge-to-decide-whether.html#storylink=cpy
What do you think? Should the tribe be held liable to pay for the $3.2M judgment against one of their tribal members?
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