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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues 1 today, re sports injuries

In Tresa Megenity v. David Dunn, an 8-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Rush writes:

Our decision in Pfenning v. Lineman, 947 N.E.2d 392 (Ind. 2011), established a limited new rule: Indiana courts do not referee disputes arising from ordinary sports activity. Instead, as a matter of law, when a sports participant injures someone while engaging in conduct ordinary in the sport—and without intent or recklessness—the participant does not breach a duty. Id. at 404. Today we clarify that under Pfenning ordinary conduct in the sport turns on the sport generally—not the specific activity.

Here, during a karate class drill, David Dunn jump-kicked a bag, injuring Tresa Megenity, who was holding the bag. Since jump kicks are ordinary in the sport of karate generally, and no evidence supports intent or recklessness, Megenity cannot show breach as a matter of law. We thus affirm summary judgment for Dunn. * * *

The trial court granted summary judgment for Dunn, noting that the jump kick was “ordinary behavior of participants in karate within the context of a ‘kicking the bag’ drill.”

Megenity appealed, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment because (1) the “‘general nature of the conduct reasonable and appropriate for a participant’ in a karate practice drill is not ‘commonly understood and subject to ascertainment as a matter of law’” and (2) questions of fact remained as to whether Dunn’s jump kick breached a duty. Megenity v. Dunn, 55 N.E.3d 367, 373 (Ind. Ct. App. 2016) (emphasis added) (quoting Pfenning, 947 N.E.2d at 403–04). Judge Riley dissented, believing that jump kicks are ordinary behavior within karate as a whole. Id. at 374 (Riley, J., dissenting).

We granted Dunn’s petition to transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals decision. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). * * *

Like the wayward drive in Pfenning, Dunn’s jump kick may reflect poor technique or faulty execution. But it was ordinary conduct in the sport of karate generally, and no evidence shows intent or recklessness. We therefore find no breach as a matter of law and affirm summary judgment.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 16, 2017 11:12 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions