In November 2011 we reported on the case of a golfer injured by a ball hit by another golfer.  The player and club found liable for the accident appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session. 

Facts

In 2007, Anthony Phee, an inexperienced golfer, went out for a game of golf with three friends at Niddry Castle Golf Club ("the Club"), West Lothian. Mr Phee was walking along a path from the 6th green to the 7th tee, when he was hit in the face by a ball hit by Mr James Gordon from the 18th tee. As a result of the accident Mr Phee lost an eye.  

Decision

At first instance the Court held that Mr Gordon owed a duty of care to Mr Phee, and should have been aware of the risk his tee shot posed to someone like Mr Phee. The Court decided that the Club had not risk assessed the course, and, notwithstanding the absence of any prior accidents, ought to have taken a more proactive approach and provided warning signs.

The judge decided that both Mr Gordon and the Club were liable and apportioned 70% of the liability to Mr Gordon and 30% to the Club.  Damages had been agreed at £400,000. 

Appeal

Both Mr Gordon and the Club appealed the court's decision arguing that there had been no breach of duty and that the accident had been caused by Mr Phee's sole fault or contributory negligence. Mr Gordon also submitted that, if he and the Club were liable for the accident, the Club should bear a greater proportion of the liability. 

The Inner House was not persuaded that the accident was caused by any fault or negligence of Mr Phee.  They decided that the court had been correct to find that both Mr Gordon and the Club were liable for Mr Phee's injuries.  However, the appeal court was of the view that the lion's share of the blame rested with the Club.  As such, they apportioned 20% of the liability to Mr Gordon and 80% to the Club.

Comment

This case highlights the importance of conducting and implementing a proper risk assessment when organising a sporting activity.  Golf clubs must review their courses for risk of injury and act appropriately. Golf clubs and players should also review their insurance cover.

Click here for a link to the judgment.