On September 4, the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin won dismissal of a putative class action alleging that it printed expiration dates and more than the last five digits of credit cards on receipts at its retail stores. In Jeremy Meyers, et al. v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin (Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-00445, E.D. Wisc.), the court agreed with the tribe’s argument that its sovereignty made it immune to Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) lawsuits. The plaintiff had filed suit in April 2015, alleging that FACTA applied to any foreign or domestic government, including Indian tribes.
Instead, the court followed the basic rule that Indian tribes are generally immune from legal actions unless Congress “unequivocally” expresses an intent to abrogate such immunity. According to Judge Griesbach of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin:
It is one thing to say “any government” means “the United States.” That is an entirely natural reading of “any government.” But it’s another thing to say “any government” means “Indian tribes.” Against the long-held tradition of tribal immunity … “any government” is equivocal in this regard.”
He added, citing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, that “Congress knows how to abrogate tribal immunity.”
The plaintiff indicated that he will appeal the ruling to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. According to his counsel:
There is a circuit split on this issue and so, the judge in this case followed the reasoning of the one side of the circuit split giving a narrow reading to the definition of a government under the statutes. We believe that an Indian tribe is considered to be a domestic government as the Ninth Circuit has held and so, it falls within the definition of government as used in FACTA, and so FACTA applies to the tribe and they can be sued under FACTA.