What is my legal liability if I accidentally hurt another student in a stunt fighting/martial arts class?

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What is my legal liability if I accidentally hurt another student in a stunt fighting/martial arts class?

About a year ago, I went to a stunt/stage fighting martial arts class. We all sign liability waivers. While doing a choreographed fight scene I accidentally punched another student in the mouth. He required stitches and follow up visits. I also required a trip to urgent care due to an infection in my hand. We both returned to class after a full recovery and I told him we would figure out bills. He contacted me and has over $3200 in bills that his insurance did not cover. I offered to pay half of his bills and all of my own. He responded saying that he wants me to pay all of his

bills, including added mileage for his doctor visits that added up to over $120. I once again offered half because we both took the risk when we went to a class titles extreme martial arts and he threatened legal recourse. Does his case hold water? Can I be sued for something that was completely an accident with zero malice even after having liability waivers with assumption of risk spelled out?

Asked on February 18, 2018 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Malice (or lack thereof) is not a factor, so don't focus on that. However, there are several other reasons to think that you are not liable; while no lawyer can guaranty that you would not lose if sued (every lawyer has seen courts and judges do odd things and make bad decisions), you appear to have a good defense to liability:
1) Most fundamentally, you are only liable if you were "unreasonably careless," with unreasonably careless being judged contextually. If you were not being wilder or more violent than other people in this class, were not attacking someone when you were not supposed to (e.g. before "action" or "start" or whatever was called), then you were most likely not being unreasonably careless. An accident by itself does not equal liability; there must be a lack of appropriate care for that situation. So if you were doing what you were supposed to the class, there is no reason to think you were unreasonably careless.
2) Almost as fundamental and also in your favor: assumption of the risk. Certain activities are inherently riskier than others; when people voluntarily do them, they "assume"--or accept--the normal risks attendent upon those activities and can't sue for them. Example:  people fall while skiing and sometimes they break a leg or get a concussion. If that happens to you, you can't sue the ski slope. In this case, if you engage in sparring or stunt fighting, the possibility of a blow landing is a normal risk; by voluntarily participating in the class, the other person assumed this risk and cannot recover compensation when it occurs.
 


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