State Settles Suit Filed by Brain-Damaged Missoula Boxer

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – The state of Montana has settled a lawsuit with an amateur Missoula boxer who sued the promoters and regulators of a fight that left him brain-damaged.

Nate “Irish” Riley filed the lawsuit in Missoula District Court in November 2005, saying the Board of Athletics within Montana’s Department of Labor and Industry was negligent in its lack of oversight of the match at the Wilma in March 2003.

Riley, who was 22 years old at the time, stepped into the ring at a Club Boxing Inc. match. He lasted three rounds with a trained martial arts fighter before absorbing a blow to his head that required immediate medical attention.

The lawsuit sought damages from the state; Robert J. LeCoure, the man who promoted the fight; Club Boxing; the Wilma Building; and the Wilma Amusement Co.

LeCoure and the state became the last defendants to settle after a final round of negotiations this month. Although the settlements of the private parties are confidential, Montana agreed to pay Riley $125,000, said Mark S. Williams, an attorney who represented the state in the case.

The money will help Riley recoup expenses for past and future medical treatment, said his lawyer, David Paoli. The boxer underwent multiple surgeries after the fight, and although he will always have residual effects from the head injury, he has mostly recovered.

The lawsuit claimed that LeCoure “negligently and carelessly failed to provide adequate and safe boxing equipment, including … boxing gloves and boxing headgear.” The complaint also accuses LeCoure of mismanaging the matches and profiting from the events without providing adequate medical care for athletes. There was no ambulance or licensed ringside physician at the match — only a chiropractor from Stevensville.

Paul Haffeman, an attorney who represented LeCoure and Club Boxing, said Riley assumed the risk when he stepped into the ring and knew about the dangers inherent to a sport like boxing. He was told of and acknowledged the risks in writing, the attorney said.

The Board of Athletics was included in the lawsuit because it is responsible for oversight, rule making, enforcement and inspection of sporting events. That included the boxing match that left Riley with brain damage.

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