Chicago Shareholder Jill M. Felkins and Chicago Associate Mandy Black Prevail on Motion for Summary Judgment in Premises Liability Case


June 30, 2017

Segal McCambridge Shareholder Jill M. Felkins and Associate Mandy Black prevailed on a motion for summary judgment in an Indiana state court action prior to the commencement of discovery. Plaintiff's Complaint sought damages from injuries Plaintiff sustained while taking karate lessons at the Defendant’s karate school. Attorneys Felkins and Black represented the Defendant, a karate academy, arguing that Plaintiff’s suit was barred because he had signed a liability waiver and membership contract, which contained an exculpatory clause. Plaintiff argued that the liability waiver and membership contract were insufficient to insulate Defendant from liability because they did not specifically waive the right to recover for injuries sustained due to the Defendant’s negligence – the “magic language” required by Indiana law.

In its briefing and oral argument, Segal McCambridge persuaded the Allen County Superior Court that when a waiver or contract does not contain the “magic language,” the determinative question is whether the injury was the result of a risk inherent in the nature of the activity in which the injured plaintiff was participating. To avoid summary judgment, Plaintiff attempted to create an issue of fact for the jury by asserting that Defendant had increased the temperature at the karate school to intensify training, thereby causing students to sweat excessively creating a new risk outside that which is inherent in the nature of karate.

Ultimately, Segal McCambridge convinced the Court that the allegations associated with Plaintiff’s injury were consistent with inherent risks associated with karate. The Court found that either/both the liability waiver and the exculpatory clause of the membership contract were sufficient to bar Plaintiff’s claim as a matter of law. Accordingly, the case was dismissed in its entirety in favor of the Defendant.