As all of Ohio is aware, our climate right now is slowly being dragged kicking and screaming toward golf-friendly weather. What a lot of Ohio golfers aren’t aware of are their legal rights and responsibilities on a golf course.
Question: Can I get sued if I hit somebody or something with my shot? How about if I yell ˜fore’? Am I excused then?
Answer: it depends. Specifically, it depends on the status of the “somebody or something” that you hit.
Generally, if you hit and injure somebody on a golf course who is playing or watching golf, you can˜t be held responsible for their injury. The Ohio Supreme Court decided in the case of Thompson v. McNeill, 53 Ohio St. 3d 102 (1990) that fellow golfers and spectators on the course assume the risk that comes with your errant golf shots. However, the Thompson court stated there’s an exception for people directly in front of you: “If, for example, a golfer knows another is within the line of flight of his shot and fails to offer the customary warning of “fore,” liability might accrue. Such conduct could amount to reckless indifference to the rights of others.” And the court ruled that you can be held responsible for injuries flowing from such “recklessness” on a golf course.
But how about if you’re next to a road, and your shot flies out onto the road and hits a car? Can you be held responsible for the damage to the car? Yes. Why? Again, the answer lies in the status of what you hit. The Thompson court explained by analogy the difference in the duty owed by you to someone/something off the course: “For instance, a golfer who hits practice balls in his backyard and inadvertently hits a neighbor who is gardening or mowing the lawn next door must be held to a different standard than a golfer whose drive hits another golfer on a golf course. A principal difference is the golfer’s duty to the one he hit. The neighbor, unlike the other golfer or spectator on the course, has not agreed to participate or watch and cannot be expected to foresee or accept the attendant risk of injury.”
Last question: What kind of protection do I have if someone wants to hold me responsible for such injury/damage?
Answer: a typical homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy will cover and protect you against any such claims. And if you golf, you know that getting this kind of protection is probably a much safer bet than relying on your skill in hitting the ball straight and true every time.