Can You Sue A Golf Course?
If you are hit by an errant shot, do you have a case?
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What if you get hit by a golf ball and are injured?
There are multiple courses of action you can take including filing a claim for damages against the person who hit the errant shot and against the facility you were playing golf at. Just because you are injured though, does not mean you will win your claim.
Duty of Care
In order to recover for your injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, that person must owe you some duty of care. If you are trying to sue a golfer, you must ask whether they owed you a duty to exercise ordinary care for your safety. Should they have even hit? Should they have warned you?
Certainly, it seems that if you are in someone’s line, they have a duty not to hit or, at least, to warn you. But what if you aren’t in their line? Must they warn you? What if you aren’t even on the same hole? Are errant shots just a part of the game? It depends.
Assumption of the Risk
Did you know you were in someone’s potential line, but didn’t move? “Assumption of the risk” is one defense a golfer or golf course can raise in a claim for your injuries. Basically, the defense can argue that by playing golf you assumed the risk of getting hit by a ball. Case closed, right? It depends.
Have you ever stood on the tee of one hole and thought you were really close to the green of another hole? You might be on alert for errant shots. The defense would argue you were aware of the risk.
What if the 15th hole is parallel to the 14th hole, but there are trees between them. Do you expect to get hit by an errant shot? An expert witness might say that the course design is defective because, like the example with the tee box, the risk of getting hit by an errant shot is high, but unlike that example, you may not be aware of that risk because of the design of the course.
Ultimately, whether you win you claim or not depends on the facts surrounding your particular case. Proving negligence on a golf course is difficult, but it’s not impossible.
*This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Word on the Street.
When someone starts a question with, “Can I sue…” really what they’re asking is “Can I Win?” As with any question of law, the answer is “it depends.”
“I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution . . . fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross . . .”
-Justice Antonin Scalia
(PGA v. Martin)