The top court in New York just dismissed the case of a man who was suing a fellow golfer after he was hit in the head by an errant shot back in 2002.
The injured golfer was blinded in one eye by the accident and was unable to continue working in his profession. He claimed that the other golfer (they were golfing together) was negligent because he didn’t yell “fore!” to warn him. The injured golfer was searching for his ball in the fairway when he was hit.
The judges basically said that he is expecting too much of fellow golfers. In other words, holding the defendant liable would put too great a burden on people. Getting hit in the head with an errant ball is simply one of the risks of golfing, and a risk that you consent to when deciding to play the game, the court said. The judges also said there was no intentional or reckless conduct.
I tend to agree. If you’re playing a sport – even recreationally – you have to know that you might get hurt, even if it’s a sport like golf as opposed to football where injuries are pretty much part of the game. Lawsuits against another player, or a coach or referee, are generally tough ones to win unless the other person injured you intentionally.
In Illinois, the law expects a person to act within the bounds of the sport that they’re playing. So what’s allowed and what’s not – in terms of carefulness – changes. In Illinois, for a full-contact sport (think hockey), you have to prove that the other player intentionally injured your or that their actions were beyond what’s normal or acceptable for the sport. Golf is at the other end of the spectrum.
The rule of assuming the risk extends to being a spectator, as well. These cases tend to show up in the news, where a fan sues after getting hit by a baseball or a hockey puck. The injuries can be serious, or even tragic, but legally speaking they are often considered mistakes. Again, it’s a known risk. If there is negligence, it’s usually the fault of the owner or manager of the facility where the event is taking place. There are safety features in baseball stadiums and hockey arenas that are meant to protect spectators. If these are missing, or in disrepair, an injured person might have a case.