high kick.... high damages!

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high kick.... high damages!

Postby gmattson » Wed Mar 06, 2002 1:09 am


Copyright 2002 The Press Association Limited

Press Association

February 19, 2002, Tuesday

BYLINE: Emma Pearson, PA News

A 26-year-old woman today began a £1 million compensation claim over a karate kick which left her with brain damage.

Kate Stratton, of Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, was a keen member of a karate club at Barry Leisure Centre when she was injured during a class in February 1995.

The High Court, sitting in Cardiff, heard that the 5ft 2in tall 19-year-old was sparring with a male member of the class when she received a kick in the face.

Milwyn Jarman QC, representing Miss Stratton, said she remembers little of what happened but she was taken to hospital where doctors found she was drowsy, disorientated and had been slipping in and out of consciousness. Initially she could recall her full name but as her condition worsened her memory deteriorated until she could not remember her surname or her brothers' names, losing track of time and place.

The court heard that she also developed epilepsy following the kick and lost her ability to read and write.

Mr Jarman said: "The karate kick she received at the defendant's class at Barry Leisure Centre has left her an invalid for life."

Before the incident, the court heard that Miss Stratton was sporty and bright. She loved football and was a member of the Inter Cardiff Ladies Football Club.

A representative of the club described her as "a strong player" who was "very enthusiastic and keen to learn new skills".

She was also described to the court as "energetic and full of life".

The court heard in 1995 Miss Stratton was on the verge of completing a two-year BTEC qualification in nursery nursing, in which she had already achieved distinction.

When the course ended, she was due to go to the United States for a year to attend a college to pursue her interest in football and had also secured a job as a nanny.

Mr Jarman said: "She was extremely excited and optimistic about her future."

But after the karate kick a witness who had known Miss Stratton for 10 years said in a statement which was read to the court: "Since the accident even the smallest task is too much for her and often leaves her upset."

Miss Stratton spent nearly a year in hospital and has lived with her parents ever since.

The court heard that she has had to relearn basic skills such as reading and writing, but she still has difficulty with these tasks and still suffers memory loss.

Mr Jarman said it was thought she would be unlikely to ever hold down a permanent owing to the level of brain damage she had sustained.

Giving evidence, Miss Stratton said: "I wanted to go to America and while I was there play sport and then to come home and open up a nursery afterwards.

"It was something I always wanted to do because I enjoyed travel."

Seven years on, she is still receiving counselling to help her cope with her life after the incident.

Her karate instructor, Cliff Brown, was sued by Miss Stratton's parents Vi and John. He has agreed to pay 45% of the damages without admitting liability, but his representatives say her compensation should not be more than £2,000.

Opening the case, Mr Jarman said the accounts of what happened at the karate club differ, but that Mr Brown's official statement claims that his attention was diverted from Miss Stratton's fight by two students behind him. When he turned back the kick had been delivered and Miss Stratton's opponent was trying to hold her still because she wanted to carry on sparring.

The court hearing, due to last three days, will determine what level of damages Miss Stratton should receive.
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high kick.... high damages!

Postby Alan K » Wed Mar 06, 2002 2:43 pm

The case that GEM, sensei reports (I assume tried in Wales)was based on negligence. This will be completely dependent on all the facts before the jury, judge or panel of judges.

This is a perfect example of why it is important to establish safety standards and policies. Was this a full contact match or tag kumite? What safety equipment was required. I won't go on with the rest of the litany that we all know is necessary for a defense.

High degrees of safety and published rules maintained by dojo owners as a paper trail should be employed.

We know them well and GEM has preached this for eons. If you want to be in a position where you can at least defend a suit for damages then these safeguards must be employed especially in the lower ranks.

If you insist that this is not real karate and want to have more realistic practice that is your prerogative. My statement is based upon legal defense and not an endorsement or critique of either philosophy.

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high kick.... high damages!

Postby WingTsun » Fri May 10, 2002 3:56 am

I feel her on the brain damage.. thats horrible.. i hope she copes with that.

but i think she is stupid being so close when they are sparring, she shouldn't even be around there.
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high kick.... high damages!

Postby Alan K » Fri May 10, 2002 4:28 pm

The liability of the karate instructor and the club (ownership) is based upon what duty is owed to a student who has paid for lessons in a school (dojo).

Part of it is contactual and the negligence would be established on the degree of care the instuctor/dojo owner owed to the student.

There are degrees of negligence, and whether or not her own conduct could have been a contributing cause.

We know she was injured in a sparring/kumite session which appeared to be a typical event where several participants were sparring at the same time.

The first question I would ask is whether or not the contestants were wearing protective gear and if so were they adequate.

The second question was whether or not the kumite was properly supervised, e. g. were the students instructed not to do head contact with fist or foot, and not to engage in full contact regardless of equipment.

Was the conduct of the kicker suspect.

My views are strictly on the basis of the branch of the law known as "tort law", which is a miscellaneous group of civil wrongs by definition, and simply stated is the law of culpable negligence.

One can argue that if you really want to learn self defense you have to engage in realistic kumite or you might as well do square dancing. This may truly be so, but you had better join a clandestine fight club.

In a court of law the assumption of risk will be a watered down version for the average karate student and school.

It is no big deal in this age of printers costing less than $100.00 for dojo owners to promulgate rules of conduct in the dojo, to also require kumite (sparring) practice participants to wear proper safety gear, and to have at least a first aid kit on premises.

Dojo owners should also have students sign waivers even if there is no guaranty that they will work.

We can debate the philosophy, but should all be aware of the legal responsibility.

Thanks to sensei Mattson for reposting this topic as we approach the tournament season.


Alan K

If you fight in NHB events or UFC events your assumption of risk increases.

It will nevertheless be incumbent on the sponsors/producers to have medical and/or EMT staff and equipment, with a set of some rules and regulations in order as is done in the NHB matches. And to have a competent referee.
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