Have you ever wondered if you can recover for injuries caused by a co-participant while participating in a recreational sport? Well, in the case of Laughman v. Girtakovskis the Colorado Court of Appeals shed some light on that question.

In that case the Plaintiff, Laughman, suffered serious facial and visual damages during a martial arts sparring match with Defendant, Girtakovskis.  Girtakovskis had been sparring with a couple of other individuals in class as he was preparing for his black belt test when Laughman volunteered to spar with Girtakovskis. Laughman was in full protective gear, including a helmet, but no face mask. While sparring, Girtakovskis unintentionally connected with Laughman’s face, while doing a normal martial arts move. The blow caused significant damage that resulted in the need for multiple surgeries.

Laughman filed a lawsuit against Girtakovskis asserting negligence. Girtakovskis filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Colorado does not recognize negligence claims in cases involving inherently dangerous sports. The trial court granted Girtakovskis’ motion and dismissed the case, and Laughman appealed.

To prevail on a claim of negligence, (1) the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff legal duty of care; (2) that the defendant breached that duty; (3) that the plaintiff suffered injury; and (4) that the cause of the injury was the defendant’s conduct.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision, determining that co-participants in an inherently dangerous sport do not owe each other a duty of ordinary care that would support a negligence claim.

The Court of Appeals did note that when a participant’s conduct moves beyond the anticipated vigorous bounds of the activity-beyond negligence and into the realm of reckless or intention conduct-that he/she may become legally liable for that conduct. Therefore, there can be instances where a co-participant, even in an inherently dangerous sport, can be held liable for injury caused to another when participating in a recreational sport.

This summary is not intended as legal advice. The facts of every case are different, so it’s important that you contact an attorney about the specific facts of your case. The attorneys at Mintz Law Firm are experienced in representing plaintiffs in personal injury cases. If you or a loved one has been injured because of the negligence of another, contact Mintz Law Firm at303-462-2999, or online at www.4injury.net.