Chumash Casino Bus Accident Kills Norwalk Man

Chumash Casino Bus Accident Kills Norwalk Man

January 20, 2016

Ellis Law Corporation


On Monday, one person died in a crash on Highway 154 after a pickup truck and a Chumash Casino passenger bus collided head-on. The accident occurred at about 11:30 in the morning near Los Olivos. The bus belonged to Chumash Casino Resort, in Santa Ynez, which is located on the 127-acre Santa Ynez Indian Reservation and operated by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

Investigators unsure what caused deadly crash

The California Highway Patrol and Santa Barbara County Fire Department were on the scene but could not definitely determine the cause of the fatal wreck. They noted that a light rain left the road wet. Drugs and alcohol were not believed to have been a factor.

According to the California Highway Patrol, the accident occurred when the pickup, a 2006 Ford Ranger headed eastbound, lost control on the wet road. The pickup went into a counter-clockwise spin before it crossed the double yellow line and entered the lane of the westbound casino bus, a 2015 Ford F750. The bus was carrying only the driver and one passenger. The bus driver reportedly slowed and turned to the right but could not avoid the accident.

According to Santa Barbara County fire captain Dave Zaniboni, the driver of the pickup was killed in the crash. They later identified the driver as Simon Ruiz, 52, of Norwalk. The bus was driven by Jose Zarate Padilla, 55, of Santa Maria. He and the lone passenger, Maria Contreras, 33, both complained of pain but neither accepted treatment.

The wreck closed Highway 154 for nearly three hours.

Collisions with casino buses raise immunity questions

Crashes involving Indian tribe-owned casinos or their vehicles are complicated by issues of sovereign immunity. Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a government may only be brought under a court’s jurisdiction when it consents to be sued. The United States government recognizes Native American reservations as sovereign entities entitled to immunity. However, factors such as casino agreements with the state can allow the lawsuits to go forward.

In order to be permitted to open casinos in California, though, the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act required tribes to enter into Tribal-State Gaming Compacts. These compacts include agreements by the tribes to limit their immunity in certain ways. California entered such an agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in 1999.

Needless to say, personal injury lawsuits involving Native American casinos raise complicated issues at every step, from filing a claim to establishing liability. But by choosing a legal representative with experience holding a tribal entity responsible, you can increase your likelihood of success.

The attorneys at Ellis Law are not strangers to the unique complexities that come with bringing a personal injury claim against a tribal casino. We have successfully recovered damages for injury victims in state courts despite claims of sovereign immunity.

To speak with Los Angeles personal injury attorneys with a proven track record in bus accident lawsuits, contact Ellis Law for a free consultation. To learn more about your legal options, call 310-641-3335.