karate kickAn Indiana Court of Appeals decision might be moving toward adding to the body of precedent around Indiana personal injury sports cases. The decision, which allows the case to move forward, hinges on whether an action in a sport is considered within the bounds of normal activity, or whether it rises to the level of recklessness. The plaintiff in the case claims that during a karate training session a fellow student diverged from normal behavior and performed an unexpected action which led to her injuries.

Surprise Kick Leads to Injury

In December of 2012, the plaintiff, a black-belt-level karate student, was attending a routine training session at a karate studio as she had done three to four times per week for the previous two years. Approximately sixty students were training during that session, practicing various skills through organized drills. The plaintiff was assisting in a “kicking the bag” drill by holding a practice bag at one of three stations through which students rotated. Her station was for front kicks, which are executed with one foot while the student balances on the other. The plaintiff had performed this holding task many times before.

One student, then a green belt, reached her station after passing through the other two. He had already been advised to “hold back” at the previous two stations after kicking excessively hard. At this station, he executed the drill incorrectly by jumping during the kick and delivering an unexpected amount of force to the bag that the plaintiff was holding. Because she was holding the bag in front of her body and face, she could not see the kick coming. The force of the blow knocked her back, and the fall caused damage to her left knee, which required surgery followed by rehabilitation and several months of missed work. She later sued the student who delivered the kick, claiming that by acting “negligently, recklessly, and unreasonably” he had caused her injuries.

What’s Normal, What’s Dangerous?

The defendant moved to have the case dismissed, arguing that his actions were reasonable under the normal conduct of a karate class. A lower court agreed, but that decision was appealed. In their split decision this spring, the appeals court decided differently. As they see the issue, whether an individual’s actions during a particular exercise or drill in a practice session can be viewed as “within the range of ordinary behavior of participants in the sport” or whether it is dangerous is a matter of fact for a jury to decide. That issue can’t be summarily dismissed by a judge prior to trial. The plaintiff still has to prove that the recklessness of the defendant caused her harm, but her case can continue on the facts.

Physical Activity Has Physical Risk

Like every other sport, martial arts (including karate) come with a risk of injury. Also like every other sport, responsible trainers and athletes keep themselves aware of both the risk of injury and the steps to prevent them. There isn’t much good data on the specific risk of injury to participants in martial arts, but that’s mostly because the sports aren’t as high-profile as many others and therefore receive less attention. One Canadian study made a small-scale effort to define martial arts injuries. It’s difficult to compare that data to the measured rate of injuries in more popular sports, but among the martial arts that the study looked at, karate had the highest rate of injury—more than double that of the next injurious martial art.

Indiana Personal Injury Lawyers

When an injury is caused by another’s recklessness, victims have a right to seek restitution for treatment of their injuries and related expenses. The attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham have experience with many aspects of personal injury law, including brain injuries and other injuries that result from athletic activity. We offer a free consultation to discuss the details of each case to help you decide how to proceed. Give us a call at 317-920-6400 or contact us online today to arrange a meeting.

CategoryPersonal Injury

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