Shock £320k damages ruling against club

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 21, 2013 15:11

Appeal court judges in Scotland have stunned the golf industry by announcing that a golf club must pay a substantially higher proportion of damages than had been previously ruled, after a golfer lost his eye when he was hit by a ball.

Niddry Castle Golf Club in Scotland was, in 2011, ordered to pay nearly £120,000, because of a lack of warning signs, after golfer Anthony Phee lost his eye – and subsequently his job as a railway engineering supervisor – when he was struck by a ball hit by fellow golfer James Gordon. This represented 30 per cent of the £397,000 damages awarded, with the remainder being paid by the golfer who hit the ball, and his insurers.

However, following an appeal by both the club and Gordon, three appeal court judges have ruled that the “lion’s share of blame” for the incident rests with the club and have ordered Niddry Castle to now pay nearly £320,000 plus costs – representing 80 per cent of the total damages.

“It is thought that Niddry Castle’s insurers will appeal this new ruling,” said Alex Rae, industry commentator and managing director at insurance specialist Tonic Golf. “But the case is proving to be very expensive for the club – regardless of whatever the final decision will be.”

The news follows two recent high-profile cases.

A ball spotter at Leven Links Golf Course was left blind in one eye when a ball hit by a competitor in the Scottish amateur Champion of Champions struck him.

The incident occurred in 2009, but David McMahon, 70, who is seeking £50,000 of damages against Gavin Dear, a former Walker Cup player, only had his case heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, last month.

At almost the same time the case started, Yvonne Parker, a woman walking her dog on Waldorf Playing Fields in Manchester, which shares a border with Dukinfield Golf Club, was hit in the head by a ball, and required hospital treatment. She has since sought legal advice.

“This isn’t an issue that clubs and golfers can hide away from,” said Rae. “The £50,000 figure that David McMahon is seeking could have been significantly higher than that amount if he was about half his age and had an occupation which required good eyesight.”

Another industry insider said that dozens of serious golf incidents occur, on average, every day.

Stephen Lownsbrough, head of sport at Blacks, a firm of niche sports’ solicitors based in Leeds, said: “Industry reports suggest that there are more than 12,000 golf incidents in the UK every year in which someone is hospitalised.

“Golf clubs need to improve their signage and golfers need to take more care when it comes to playing the game. Above all, both parties need to deploy a more effective approach to risk management if they want to avoid cases like these happening again and again.”

“These cases demonstrate just how time consuming and costly injuries can be,” added Alex Rae, “and the importance of both clubs and individuals ensuring they are adequately insured.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 21, 2013 15:11
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  1. Stephen March 25, 12:20

    Is this a different case to the previous one from a few years ago?

    Reply to this comment
    • Alex Rae - Tonic Golf March 26, 22:36

      Stephen – The incident actually took place in 2007 , this is an appeal against the allocation of damages and is quite likely to be itself subject to appeal . It could well take seven years from the incident date to final conclusion to reach the ultimate settlement

      Reply to this comment
  2. Golf Club Management (@GCM_mag) March 22, 10:19

    Niddry Castle Golf Club told to pay £320K after a golfer hit by a ball, lost his eye

    Reply to this comment
  3. @tonicalex March 21, 16:33

    » Shock £320k damages ruling against club

    Reply to this comment
  4. Carlos Fandango March 21, 16:22

    They clearly didn’t see that one one coming…

    Reply to this comment
  5. @OneChoix March 21, 15:28

    Golf club must pay a substantially proportion of damages after a golfer lost his eye when he was hit by a ball.

    Reply to this comment
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