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Appeals court wants more info to decide inherent risk in hunting case

sandhill crane
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Hunter Gabe Van Wormer walks in the woods a few days before the start of firearms deer season.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has returned a case to a lower court for a closer look at the level of risk during an organized hunting event.

The case from Alpena County pits a father against a son, who lost two fingers as the result of an accident during what’s called a “European-style” pheasant hunt.

According to the appeals court opinion, this type of hunt involves several two-person blinds arranged in a circle around a tower. Pheasants are released into the air from the tower and the hunters try to shoot as many as they can until they’re called off.  

Jeff Payne suffered the injury after his father’s gun went off inside their hunting blind. So Jeff, the son, sued the David, the father. The father said the accident was an inherent and foreseeable risk, and so he’s not liable. The son says his father should be held to the lower standard of negligence.

But the appeals court said it needs more information.

“In this case, we conclude that there remains a question of fact on whether there was an inherent risk that a hunter would be shot by a fellow hunter in the same blind during a European style pheasant hunt,” read the opinion by Judge Brock Swartzle.

So the appeals court order agrees there is an obvious risk that’s part of hunting, but it sent the case back to an Alpena County judge to come up with more facts to help settle this family legal feud.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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