ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - An Indian tribe who's employee badly injured a woman while drinking and driving off the reservation in Albuquerque will not have to pay the victim following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Peggy Reed sued the Santa Clara Pueblo for damages after one of its employees, Robert Gutierrez, slammed into Reed's SUV on Jefferson Street in Albuquerque in 2005. Gutierrez had been drinking and was driving a pueblo-owned vehicle.
Reed suffered serious injuries, and her vehicle was totaled.
Reed's attorney, David Streubel, says the pueblo refused to claim the crash on it's insurance and offered Reed $2,000 to settle their claim. They refused as Reed's medical bills alone were nearly $300,000.
A District Court judge in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Court of Appeals and New Mexico Supreme Court all ruled that the tribe was not liable because of its tribal sovereign immunity. Their ruling said that immunity applies on and off the reservation.
Reed took her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this week decided not to hear it. That means the decisions of the lower courts stand.
David Streubel calls the decision "horribly unjust."
Reed said she was disappointed and says she now worries about how her case will affect anyone who drives the streets of New Mexico
"The fact that there are people out there driving vehicles on public roads who are not held accountable for their actions," Reed said. "That is a very, very scary thing for all of us."
News 13 contacted the attorneys for the Santa Clara Pueblo for comment, but they did not respond.
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