Golf Course Injuries: Who's at Fault?
By Chris Kramer
Most sporting event venues have signs warning visitors of the risk they are taking by attending the event, especially if they are sitting near areas that are prime spots for foul balls and errant pucks. To be sure, safety measures over the years have given spectators more protection from objects flying out of the field of play, making today's sporting venues as safe as they've ever been. And, sports arenas and stadiums make sure that they pass off liability to you, the spectator, with statements in and around the stadium, on the back of your ticket stub, and read over the public address system before sports games.
But what about sports venues where the risk isn't as obvious or predictable? Take golf, for instance. Surely, spectators assume liability if they are at a golf course watching Tiger Woods capture another green jacket at the Masters, just to name one possibility. But golf courses are designed much different than other sporting fields, without the separation between field and public or residential areas that characterize other major sports arenas.
Two recent personal injury cases, similar in nature, demonstrate the murky area of personal injury law in and around golf courses, and how victims of injuries from golf balls and other related objects might present a personal injury case and win compensation for their medical expenses and treatment.
The first woman, Crystal Timpanaro, from Emerson, New Jersey, has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Owl's Creek Golf Course in Virginia Beach, Virginia. While sitting in a golf cart and watching her boyfriend play golf at the course in the summer of 2006, Timpanaro was struck by an errant drive from a golfer teeing from the 17th hole.
Timpanaro's lawyer claims that a defect in Owl Creek's design makes the 16th and 17th holes dangerously close together. While admitting that a spectator or player at a golf course should expect stray balls as a normal risk of being on the course, the lawyer claims that, in this case, Timpanaro's safety was compromised by a design defect that the club could and should have corrected.
Though Timpanaro's lawsuit does not report particular facts about the extent of her injury, she claims that she is still suffering a year and a half later. She is seeking $1 million in compensation.
Further south of Owl's Creek, a Sunshine State golf course has also been hit with a personal injury lawsuit.
Greenwich, Connecticut resident Katherine Georgas was walking along South Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, Florida with her husband William when a golf ball from nearby Par 3 Golf Course struck her in the eye.
Georgas's injury caused her to become legally blind, and in order to receive compensation, she is suing the town of Palm Beach, which owns the golf course, as well as Carole Maddox, of Jupiter, Florida, whose ball struck Georgas. Georgas has already undergone one major surgery to restore her vision, which was unsuccessful, and has submitted to months of rehabilitation.
In the lawsuit, Georgas and her lawyer claim that the town knew of the danger of the golf course from previous incidents involving pedestrians and cars being hit by stray golf balls. According to police reports, 9 people have been struck since 2000.
The town, naturally, claims no liability from a golf ball struck by a person from its confines. However, Georgas and her lawyer hope to use the previous police reports to show that the town acted in a negligent manner for failing to at least warn pedestrians of the danger of incoming golf balls.
We'll keep you updated on the latest developments with these personal injury lawsuits involving golf course injuries.