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Appeals court wants more information to decide how risky hunting competitions are in father-shoots-son case

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Mosin Nagant 91/30 PU sniper rifle

The Michigan Court of Appeals has sent a case back to a lower court for a closer look at how much risk is posed during a hunting competition. 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.

David Payne is the defendant. His son, Jeff, says David carelessly allowed his gun to discharge while they shared a blind during a pheasant hunt. The son lost two fingers.

David, said his gloves were cumbersome and he could have been more careful, but his son’s injuries were a foreseeable risk of the activity.

That wasn’t enough for the appeals court to make its decision. It wants more information from a lower court to make its determination: If the risk is inherent and foreseeable, the standard for the court to use is reckless misconduct. If the activity is deemed less so, the son only has to prove negligence to win the case against his father.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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