Miccosukee Tribe in Florida is being held responsible to pay $3.2M judgment

Posted By Tammy Scism 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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About Tammy Scism

Earned an MBA in International Business and a BBA in Human Resource Management. A member of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas and a Veteran of the US Army. Additionally, is married and has three biological children, two stepsons and is raising two of her seven grandchildren in Northern California.

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I think the Dade Courts are wrong. I have never heard of courts holding liable those that helped “pay” for representation. If that were the case, every attorney in the country that provides pro bono services would be liable for judgment payments.

It is sad that this family has suffered a loss. And it is sad that the family responsible for this families loss is hiding behind their tribe. At least that is what is sounds like they are doing. It is wonderful that their tribe is willing to provide legal representation, but $3.1 million to one family???


Again,the racist Florida does it again! Tribes in many areas will provide aid to members but that does not make them responsible for the accident or crime! Other wise, let’s start suing banks for loaning monies for defense! Or family members! Flat out stupid to punish the entire membership of this tribe for this!

Karen Hayek

The first travisty is that it took 3 million+ for representation to begin with!! That assistance was given for the representation, certainly should not make liable those that assisted. I think I can not be shocked by the way we conduct ourselves, as a society and then there you go…slapped with another shocking situation. Unbelieveable!! This should be appealled and taken to the highest courts if that’s what is necessary.

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