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Indiana Court Limits Claims for Injuries Resulting from Sporting Events

A recent Indiana Court of Appeals case decided November 15, 2016, Wooten v. Caesar’s Riverboat Casino, LLC, clarified the law regarding a person’s ability to sue for an injury sustained while engaged in a sport.

The 2016 case involved two golf carts colliding in a fairway while the golfers looked for their golf balls. One of the golfers claimed an injury arising from the collision. The 2016 case affirmed Indiana law holding a negligence claim will not lie against a participant in a sports activity, if the conduct complained of is within the range of ordinary behavior of participants in the sport.

The 2016 case reviewed a 2011 case involving a golfer hitting an errant tee shot, which struck a 16-year-old beverage cart driver in the mouth causing severe injuries. In the 2011 case, the Court held that hitting an errant tee shot and yelling “fore” or the failure to do so, fell within the range of ordinary behavior for golfers, and the court dismissed the beverage cart driver’s negligence claim against the golfer.

Likewise, in a 2011 case involving a Little League mom who was hit in the knee by a young batter taking practice swings outside the dugout, the court dismissed the mom’s negligence claim, holding that she incurred the risk of injury when she stood in the area between the dugout and the opening in the fence. The Court further held that the mom’s injury was due to risks inherent in the sporting event, and dismissed the negligence claim against the Little League player.

Indiana courts do hold that if a participant engages in an intentional or reckless behavior, causing injury to another participant or bystander, a negligence claim might not be so easily dismissed. But if a defendant can show his activities were within the normal course of behavior for participants in a given sport, and the person bringing the claim fails to bring evidence of recklessness or intent, an Indiana court is likely to dismiss the case.

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