With the warm weather finally here, many people have already begun making their way back to the golf courses. Yet, the sport is not without its legal liabilities. Errant golf ball strikes are a common hazard that can result in damage to nearby property, harm to other players, and even death in some more serious circumstances. Additionally, many golf games involve the players drinking during the game or at the clubhouse afterwards. While the players themselves should always monitor their own intake and drink responsibly, the golf course may also be responsible for damage caused by their drinking if it sells them the alcohol.
Errant Golf Balls
The question of liability for errant golf balls hinges on whether the person or property that was damaged was actually on the course or simply nearby. One of the most common types of accidents on the course occurs when one player injures another. The occasional poorly aimed shot can go awry and hit another player on another hole or standing off the course. Ordinarily, landowners, like the golf course, do not have a duty to protect people on their land from obvious dangers, like errant shots on a golf course, but such a duty does arise when the owner can reasonably anticipate the danger. Consequently, if there is an area, such as a clubhouse deck, where missed shots land with some frequency, the course may be liable to the injured player.
Importantly, this protection does not necessarily extend to people who have purchased homes near the golf course. Errant shots do occasionally hit those homes or the people in them, and when that happens courts have found it to be the homeowner’s responsibility. One example of this happened in 2005 when a missed drive struck a woman sitting in her garden. The court refused to award damages based on the legal doctrine of “assumption of risk,” which means that homeowners who buy houses near a course are aware that shots may occasionally land on their property and they accept that risk when they buy the house.
Alcohol on the Course
That golf courses tend to sell alcohol also implicates something known as “dram shop laws.” These are laws that make alcohol distributors liable for the damage caused by drunken patrons in certain circumstances. These laws allow people who have suffered injury or property damage because of a drunken person to sue the business that furnished the liquor, provided that the business sold enough alcohol to be responsible for the person’s drunkenness and that the drunkenness was the cause of the damage.
If you were recently injured on a golf course, contact a skilled Illinois personal injury attorney today. Our firm counsels clients in towns around the northwest suburbs, including in Crystal Lake, Buffalo Grove, and Deer Park.
About the Author: Founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC, Colin Gilbert, received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of law in 2005. Colin argues cases across many practice areas including criminal defense, collections, civil litigation, real estate law, and corporate law. Colin is an active member of the Board of Governors of the Northwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Creditors Bar Association. He is currently Vice President of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and is a Commissioner for the Village of Arlington Heights. Colin has a 10.0 Attorney rating on Avvo, and was named one of the 2014 “Top 40 Under 40” Trial Lawyers in Illinois by the National Trial Lawyers Association.