The July 29 incident at the Cody Gunfighters show when three spectators were injured wasn’t the first such case in city history.
Two incidents in the 1980s left re-enactors with serious injuries and probably contributed to the show’s occasional disappearance in the 1980s and 1990s.
The show was resurrected in 1997 and continued each summer until this year.
Newspaper reports from the incidents in the 1980s are not detailed, but stories indicate performer Thornton “Todd” Darr was injured in 1983 when a gun loaded with blanks discharged while he was wrestling with another performer as part of the act. The blast seriously injured his hand and a surgeon had to remove paper wadding and gunpowder from the wound.
According to a story on a planned benefit fundraiser published in the Enterprise on Sept. 14, 1983, the injury meant Darr was unlikely to regain full use of his hand and could not continue to work.
The story also reported that another reenactor, Dave Boehm, had suffered an eye injury when a gun loaded with blanks was fired in his direction. An unknown particle, possibly hardened glue used to seal the blank round, or rocks or debris from the street, struck Boehm in the eye. The story indicated Boehm had medical bills of $10,000 and more surgery was needed. He wasn’t expected to regain more than 40 percent of his sight in that eye.
According to the story, Darr’s medical bills were $5,000 to $6,000.
Boehm ultimately sued, and his case made its way to the Wyoming Supreme Court. According to an Associated Press story published in the Enterprise in January 1988, the Court dismissed Boehm’s suit.
Boehm was a member of the Cody Country Gunfighters Club, which staged the gunfight reenactments on the street next to the Irma Hotel. The court ruled that since Boehm was a member of the Gunfighters he couldn’t sue the group.
“Allowing such a member to sue the association or another member, as part of the association, would be tantamount to allowing that person to sue himself,” Justice C. Stuart Brown wrote in announcing the decision.
According to the story the court ruled Boehm could not hold the “Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, the Club and its members, the hotel and the town liable for the injury he received from an unknown projectile.” The story also reported that Boehm had signed a waiver saying he would perform at his own risk and released all parties from liability for injuries.
The current version of the Cody Gunfighters carry $2 million in liability insurance, said Don Bash, a former president of the Gunfighters.
Not surprisingly, the City mandates it.
“Normally the city requires the Gunfighters to carry their own insurance,” Cody City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke said.
The Gunfighters’ insurance would likely be the first target if an injured spectator sought relief from injuries suffered during the show.
If those spectators decided to target the City as well, state law mandates they first file a claim with the city, Kolpitcke said.
Such a claim would then be submitted to the Local Government Liability Pool, which provides liability insurance for cities and towns, counties, school districts and other government entities in Wyoming, including Cody.
If the pool denies the claim then the plaintiff would have the opportunity to file a lawsuit.
Kolpitcke said there have not been any claims filed against the city related to the July Gunfighters’ incident.
In any event, he said the City’s primary concern at this point is public safety.
“We’re all just breathing a sigh of relief that the injuries weren’t more severe,” he said.
(Rob Breeding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)