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Fore! Why Do Golfers Keep Suing?

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Kevin S. Cooman
Oct 28, 2020
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During our pandemic summer, golf has been one of the ways to enjoy an outdoor activity, typically without a mask, and safely.  But sure enough, another golfer decided to get even with a golf course when his round was cut short on a rainy day after only 11 holes.  He had ascended stairs to the tee box on the 12th hole, and used his range finder to determine the true distance to the pin.  As he descended the same stairs to grab the right club from this golf cart, he slipped and fell on the obviously wet stairs, injuring both knees.  This, he decided, had to be the course owner’s fault, not his, and sued.

The trial court thought that the case should go to a jury to determine who was at fault, but the Appellate Division, Fourth Department (which hears appeals in Western New York) wisely determined otherwise.  Applying the “assumption of risk” legal doctrine to golf as a voluntary recreational activity with known risks (like playing in or after rain), the court dismissed the plaintiff golfer’s lawsuit.   In doing so, the court noted that plaintiff: (1) was an experienced golfer who had played the course several times in the past; (2) knew that the course was still wet from rain that had just fallen; and (3) was familiar with the stairs in question having just used them.  The fact that the course had not installed anti-slip guards on the stairs was deemed insufficient to place liability on the course owner.   Conrad v Holiday Valley, Inc. 2020 WL 5867630 (4th Dep’t 2020).

While the result seems obvious, golfers nevertheless repeatedly waste money on legal expenses in unsuccessful cases. Bockelmann v New Paltz (trip and fall walking across bridge in soft spikes); Mangan v Engineer’s Country Club, Inc. (fall descending steps from cart path to tee box); Kirby v Drumlins, Inc. (injury when golfer lost control of golf cart on steep path covered with wet leaves); Lombardo v Cedar Brook Golf & Tennis Club, Inc. (slip and fall on wet grass descending from tee on 17th hole after heavy rain).  Perhaps it’s time for golfers to spend their money and time on new clubs or lessons.

MCCM’s litigation attorneys are always ready to evaluate and represent clients in serious personal injury cases – other than those against golf courses and their playing partners. Contact us to review your potential injury claim. 

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.