Wilson v. Horton's Towing, No. 16-35320 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against a police officer and a towing company after the officer seized plaintiff's truck on the Lummi reservation. Plaintiff was stopped by Lummi police and marijuana was found in his truck. The officer cited a violation of tribal drug laws and issued a notice of forfeiture and took possession of the truck.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff because plaintiff failed to exhaust his tribal remedies against the towing company. Applying principles of comity, the panel held that the Lummi Tribal Court must be given the opportunity to first address the question of whether tribal jurisdiction exists. The panel held that the district court properly substituted the United States as a party for the tribal police officer pursuant to the Westfall Act, and that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against the United States pursuant to the two-step test in Shirk v. U.S. ex rel. Dep't of Interior, 773 F.3d 999, 1006 (9th Cir. 2014), which determined whether a tribal employee could be deemed a federal Bureau of Indian Affairs employee for the purposes of Federal Tort Claims Act liability. Finally, the panel vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice to refiling after plaintiff has exhausted the appropriate remedies.