Articles Posted in Torts

On February 16, 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding a sports participant’s duty owed to other participants in sports-injury tort cases. Megenity v. Dunn (No. 22D03-1309-CT-1354, decided Feb. 16, 2017). The Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling that a participant does not breach a duty owed to another participant by engaging in conduct ordinary in the sport, unless the participant intentionally or recklessly did so.

In Megenity, the plaintiff was a black belt in karate and attended classes at one particular studio for two years. At one session, she volunteered to hold a flying-kick bag while students practiced. The defendant was a green belt and accidentally executed a jump kick (both feet are off the ground) instead of a flying kick (one foot remains on the ground), which sent the plaintiff “flying and crashing to the floor”. The plaintiff suffered a knee injury, requiring surgery and months of physical therapy.

The plaintiff sued, arguing that the defendant breached a duty to her because a jump kick is never done during a flying kick drill. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, finding a jump kick was an ordinary behavior during a kick-the-bag drill. The Supreme Court agreed, finding that “ordinary conduct” should be determined looking at the sport generally, not in the specific activity within the sport. As jump kicks are ordinary in the general sport of karate and the defendant did not intentionally or recklessly execute a jump kick, the defendant did not breach a duty even though the jump kick was contrary to protocol.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently held in City of Evansville v. Magenheimer that the Indiana Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”) does not govern a claim under Indiana Code chapter 35-47-11.1, which prohibits political subdivisions from regulating firearms (“Indiana Firearms Preemption Act” or “IFP Act”).

In September of 2011, Benjamin Magenheimer and his family visited a city park in Evansville, Indiana. While at the park, Magenheimer openly carried a firearm, which he was licensed to do. The police were called and asked Magenheimer to leave the park pursuant to an Evansville municipal code prohibiting firearms in city parks. Magenheimer filed a complaint alleging that Evansville had violated the Indiana Firearms Preemption Act, which provides that “political subdivision[s] may not regulate . . . firearms . . . [their] possession [or] carrying.” The Act also creates a private right of action, which Magenheimer brought suit pursuant to. Evansville argued that it committed a tort by enforcing the ordinance and therefore, Magenheimer’s claim was essentially a tort and barred for failure to comply with the notice requirements of the ITCA.
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