Ala. court blocks complaint over unpaid jackpot, allow car wreck suits forward

Sep 30, 2017 8:20 AM

In separate rulings Friday, the Alabama Supreme Court blocked a complaint over an unpaid, $1.4 million jackpot at an Indian tribe’s casino but allowed two suits against the tribe over car wrecks to go forward.

All three decisions involved Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians, the state’s sole federally recognized Indian tribe, which argued it was shielded from state court action in each case because of tribal immunity laws.

Jerry Rape sued the tribe and two workers in 2011 claiming he won a $1.4 million jackpot after inserting $5 into an electronic gambling machine at the tribe’s Wind Creek Casino in Montgomery. One casino worker said “don’t let them cheat you out of it,” according to Rape’s suit.

Rape said he was not paid, was detained in a back room for about 24 hours, threatened and told the machine had malfunctioned.

A judge dismissed the suit, agreeing federal law tribal-immunity provisions shield the casino. There was no evidence that the gambling was illegal, the justices said, and Rape had no way to win the case.

Separately, the justices let two other lawsuits against the tribe related to separate car wrecks go forward. One case accuses the tribe of over serving alcohol to a patron who later caused a fatal mishap. The other involves a non-tribal member driving a tribe-owned truck involved in an accident. The court in overruling lower court decisions said these suits could now be heard.