The original post was about an interesting verdict in New York in a “calling fore” golf course injury case. The case is still interesting. But it is 11 years-old. So I’m updating the post in 2020 by including sample settlements and verdicts in golf course injury lawsuits.
Golf Course Injury Verdicts and Settlements
- 2020, Texas: $125,000 Settlement. A minor girl suffered a traumatic brain injury after falling from a golf cart that was operated by a minor. Look at the infographic we have on this page. These injuries are unbelievably common. The injury left her with permanent impairments. Her family sued the driver for recklessly operating the vehicle and failing to properly brake. They also sued the cart’s owner for negligently entrusting it to an incompetent operator. The case settled for $125,000. Obviously, there was a real problem for the victim’s lawyer in establishing fault because a case like this should be worth millions at trial if successful.
- 2019, New Jersey: $400,000 Settlement. A 58-year-old leaned against a bridge’s side rail at a golf course. The rail collapsed, and he fell several feet into a ditch. He suffered the aggravation of a pre-existing torn rotator cuff. The man sued the golf course, alleging that they negligently maintained its premises. His engineering expert testified that the golf course created a dangerous condition by failing to use pressurized wood for the railing. The man’s orthopedist testified that he would now need arthroscopic surgery because of the aggravation. This case settled for $400,000.
- 2019, Wisconsin: $16,000 Settlement. A dog bit a 13-year-old boy at a golf course. Before the incident, the boy dropped his golf club and bent down to retrieve it. The dog bit his ear as he retrieved the club. The boy suffered ear lacerations and scarring. His parents hired a dog bite lawyer and sued the golf course, the dog’s owner, for allowing the dog to roam freely around the course. The case settled for $16,000.
- 2019, New Jersey: $3,864,000 Verdict. A 42-year-old wealth manager suffered multiple lumbar disc herniations, the aggravation of his spondylolisthesis, and a right knee injury after a golf cart struck him. He underwent injection therapy for his right knee and lumbar fusion surgery. The man’s injuries left him unable to work for a lengthy period and resulted in his termination. He sued the golf cart’s driver for recklessly operating the vehicle and disregarding the safety of other golf course patrons. The driver denied liability, arguing that the man saw him and failed to avoid being struck. A jury ruled in favor of the man and awarded $3,650,000. The final judgment increased the net award to $3,864,000 based on pre-judgment interest.
- 2019, New York: $1,075,000 Settlement. A 10-year-old boy suffered a fractured right humerus, third-degree right arm burns, and second-degree bilateral knee burns after a golf cart tipped over and pinned him. At the time of the incident, he was attending a golf camp. The boy underwent a skin graft to treat his burns. He now experienced a limited range of motion to his right arm. His parents sued the Town of Orangetown, who employed the golf cart’s driver for vicarious liability. They also sued the golf camp’s operator for improperly supervising and training the golf cart’s driver. The case settled for $1,075,000.
Original Blog Post on Anand v. Kapoor
The New York Appellate Division affirmed, in a 4-1 opinion, a trial court’s ruling granting summary judgment in favor of a golfer who struck his friend in the eye with a golf ball. Both the plaintiff and the defendant were medical doctors and friends… before the accident.
In his lawsuit and at deposition, the Plaintiff alleged that he had located his ball and turned around to see where the others in the threesome had hit their balls when he was struck by the defendant’s misdirected ball. The plaintiff estimated that he was approximately 15 to 20 feet in front of the defendant when the errant ball was hit. He admitted that it was customary for members of the same golfing party to stand behind the person hitting the ball.
The defendant admitted that he did not know where the other golfers were when he hit the ball. The defendant claimed he shouted a warning, but no one heard the warning. (For summary judgment assuming the facts most favorable to the Defendant, the assumption is there was no “fore” warning.)
On summary judgment, the defendant argued assumption of the risk and that there is no duty to yell “fore!” photo when another golfer is in the intended line of flight of the golf ball. Defendant further argued with photographic evidence that he hit a terrible shot that was not foreseeable. (I love turning “I hit an awful shot” into a legal defense.)
The dissenting opinion argued that the defendant’s failure to follow an established rule of golf etiquette to yell “fore” created an unreasonably increased risk, which the plaintiff did not assume by playing golf.
The dissent also makes another interesting argument to negate the assumption of the risk argument. The dissent states assumption of risk doctrine in sports does not mean that a participant assumes the risk of conduct which unreasonably increases the sport’s inherent risks, noting the policy behind an assumption of the risk in participant sports facilitates “free and vigorous participation in athletic activities.”
The dissent found that because a golfer’s failure to shout “fore” before hitting the ball provides no competitive advantage, the assumption of risk does not apply.
What Is the Lesson of Anand v, Kapoor?
What do we take out of this case? First, many doctors do not have a problem with filing lawsuits as long as they do not involve medical malpractice lawsuits against them. Second, golf can be a dangerous game. Third, attorneys in Maryland should keep in mind there are creative arguments around the assumption of the risk defenses in serious injury participant sports cases. I’m not saying this is a good case. I don’t like the jury appeal of the liability argument in the case, although the court hinted the injuries were serious. But lawyers too often stop thinking of the words “assumption of the risk” without looking at creative arguments to negate the defense.