Utah Supreme Court: State Can’t be Sued in Boxer’s Death

December 23, 2007

A Utah boxing regulatory commission can’t be sued for negligence in the death of a boxer who collapsed in the ring, said
the state Supreme Court.

Brad Rone died of an irregular heartbeat in 2003 after collapsing in the first round of a fight in Cedar City against Billy Zumbrun. He wanted to win money from the fight to fly to Ohio for his mother’s funeral.

Rone’s sister, Celeste Moss, said the Pete Suazo Utah Athletic Commission was negligent in permitting her brother to enter the ring. He weighed 259 pounds, had high blood pressure and lost a string of previous fights.

She said Nevada had prohibited Rone from boxing in that state.

But Utah’s highest court said the commission performs a governmental function and is immune to the lawsuit, like other agencies. The court said the immunity does not trample the rights of people who want to seek relief in courts.

“Only the government can regulate the sport for the common good, rather than for the benefit of a select financially interested sector of the boxing industry,” the court said in a 5-0 decision written by Justice Jill Parrish.

“Only the government may wield its police power to ensure that safety regulations are followed,” the court said.

Rone and his mother were buried together in a double funeral.

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