Niagara Gazette

October 16, 2012

Senecas win appeal in Sue-Perior case

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A state appeals court has sided with the Seneca Nation of Indians in a legal dispute involving a local contractor that has performed work at several Seneca-owned properties in Western New York.

Officials from the Seneca Nation announced Tuesday that the New York State Appellate Division rejected a lawsuit against 17 officers from two Seneca-owned companies who were accused by the West Seneca firm, Sue-Perior Concrete and Paving, of non-payment of contract and other contractual failures. 

“Not only did the appeals court reaffirm fundamental principles of tribal sovereign immunity as applied to tribal officials, but the judges carefully explained why Sue/Perior’s complaint was insufficiently pled as a matter of law," Seneca Nation President Robert Odawi Porter said in a statement released by the nation on Tuesday. "It is a very good case precedent to have reaffirmed in New York law.” 

In 2010, Sue-Perior Concrete and Paving filed lawsuit against Seneca Nation companies and several employees, claiming they failed to make good on contractual obligations related to work performed by Sue-Perior at various Seneca-owned properties. 

Last year, State Supreme Court Justice John Michelek denied the case, but allowed proceedings to continue against 17 individual officers of the Seneca companies. The Seneca companies appealed to the Appellate Division, saying the officers were also protected by sovereign immunity. A release from the Seneca Nation issued Tuesday indicated that the five-judge appeals court agreed, ruling that the individual officers of the Seneca companies never worked outside their capacities as corporation officers.

Elizabeth Kraengel, an attorney representing Sue-Perior Concrete, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.