Divided COA rules karate kick is an issue of material fact

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that a man’s kick in karate class, which injured a woman, constituted an issue of material fact and reversed summary judgment in his favor.

Tresa Megenity volunteered to hold the bag for a drill called “kicking the bag.” Megenity’s bag was supposed to be for a front kick, where a person stands with one foot on the ground and kicks with their other foot. However, when David Dunn kicked the bag, he jumped. Megenity, was holding the bag in front of her face and did not see it. The force of Dunn’s kick “sheared out” Megenity’s ACL and damaged her menisci.

Nine months later Megenity filed a complaint against Dunn saying he recklessly caused her injuries. Dunn filed for and was granted summary judgment, and Megenity appealed.

In the majority decision written by Judge Edward Najam, who was joined by Judge Melissa May, Najam wrote the analysis turned on what constitutes reasonable and appropriate conduct in karate class. He wrote that unlike some more well-known sports like baseball, football, basketball and golf, karate is not a sport most people are familiar with, especially the details of the different types of kicks.

Dunn said jump kicks like his are within the ordinary behavior of a karate student in practice drills, but Megenity presented evidence to show this kick was outside the range of normal behavior for those drills. Najam wrote that because of the obscurity of karate and how most people don’t know what is or isn’t normal in a karate class, that constitutes an issue of material fact, and the issue should be remanded for full trial. Also, Megenity designated evidence to say Dunn’s kick was a jump kick and not a regular kick in these drills.

“We hold that 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,” Najam wrote.  

Judge Patricia Riley dissented in the opinion, saying the majority ruled too narrowly on just the kick without taking in the entire sport of karate, which she argues should have been done like it was in Pfenning v. Lineman, 947 N.E.2d 392 (Ind. 2011), on which both sides based their decision.

“By focusing on whether Dunn’s particular kick was ‘outside the range of ordinary behavior for a karate student engaged in a kicking-the-bag practice drill,” the majority limits its review to the particular exercise instead of the broader scope of karate, as instructed by Pfenning,” Riley wrote.

The case is Tresa Megenity v. David Dunn, 22A04-1506-CT-722.


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