In March of 2010 – four years after we had filed the lawsuit and seven years after our client’s husband’s death – the case came back to the District Court.
We again began working on it, exchanging written discovery, talking to witnesses, and trying to find experts. There were a few outstanding Motions that the court needed to rule on, so we were not able to begin taking depositions, and we waited for our rulings.
Then, while we waited for the district court, the Montana Supreme Court handed down a new Indian law case – Big Spring.
So, in the fall of 2011, the doctor and his employer filed another Motion for Summary Judgment. On the same issue. Again arguing that the state court did not have the power to issue a binding judgment on a non-Indian doctor and his non-Indian employer because the deceased was a registered member of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
Again we opposed their motion.
Last month – 9 years after our client’s husband’s death – we won! The court agreed that tribal sovereignty is not impinged by allowing a registered tribal member to step into state court to pursue an action against a non-Indian. Even if the malpractice occurred on the reservation.
You can see the decision Denial of Motion for Summary Judgment here.
It’s true what they say: “the wheels of justice grind slowly.” As attorneys, more than your average Joe, we know this adage is true. That’s why we are always prepared to keep oiling those wheels for our clients.
Nine years after this death, we will finally be moving on to justice in this case.