‘Members of Scottish golf clubs can not sue fellow members for personal injury’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 10, 2017 13:51

A landmark legal case, in which a judge in the Court of Session has dismissed a golfer’s claim against his club’s committee, means that members of Scottish golf clubs cannot sue fellow members for personal injury, states a law firm.

This means that if a golfer at a Scottish golf club injured himself on the course he could only sue the members if he was a visitor.

Colin Taylor sued the eight members of the executive board at Colville Park Golf Club in Scotland after he fell into a manhole on the course and was seriously injured.

However, Lord Uist has ruled that the case was “irrelevant”, as the established principle of liability applied, namely that clubs or its committee members do not owe a duty of care to individual members.

According to Scottish Legal News, Taylor, who had been a member of the club for several years prior to the accident in June 2011, was walking with a golf trolley when he stepped on a manhole cover on a grassy area between the clubhouse and the first tee and fell partly into the manhole, injuring his right leg.

He brought an action for damages against eight named members of the executive board of the club, and Tata Steel UK, the owner of the land in question.

Taylor claimed that decisions regarding safety were made jointly by the eight members of the executive board and that they were “entrusted” by the other members “to ensure that the club premises were properly managed and maintained in a safe condition”.

Lord Uist responded: “On the face of it the pursuer is suing the first to eighth defenders as members of the club, for what links them together is their membership of the executive board: if they had not been members of the executive board they would not have been sued. In order to plead a relevant case, therefore, he must make sufficient averments that they owed him a duty of care independently of their membership.

“In order to seek to do so he relies upon the terms of the [club’s health and safety] manual and the responsibilities which it confers on the executive board. He maintains that the effect of the terms of the manual is to make them individually liable to him independently of their membership.

“I fail to see how an allocation of responsibility for health and safety in the manual to one or more of the members of the executive board could in itself have the legal effect of rendering them liable to another member for an injury caused to him when they would not otherwise have been liable. It matters not how culpable the first to eighth defenders were if they owed no duty to the pursuer.”

According to law firm Brodies: “This confirms that members of a club are not entitled to sue their fellow members for personal injury. The Court of Session confirmed the ‘common members rule’ – the established principle that club members owe no duty of care to each other. The status of a golf club member, for example as a committee convenor or steward, is irrelevant.

“It did not matter that the parties being sued were members of the executive board, who have overall responsibility for health and safety. They were all members of the club, and members cannot sue each other.

“This means in practice that the status of Scottish club members vis-à-vis each other protects them from liability. If Mr Taylor had not been a member of the club, he would have been able to sue its members for his personal injuries.

“The case may have been decided differently if raised in England. The 1997 case of Grice v The Stourport Tennis, Hockey and Squash Club saw the Court of Appeal find in favour of an injured plaintiff where the grounds and premises committee had specific responsibility for health and safety and was obliged to appoint a full time steward for this purpose. Court of Appeal cases are persuasive in Scotland, and this is one of the relatively rare occasions where a Scottish judge has refused to follow English authority.”

Jennifer Matthew, a solicitor at MacRoberts, agreed: “Members can’t sue each other for injury arising in the course of membership. This is because there is no distinction between you and the members, and you would essentially be suing yourself.

“Mr Taylor argued that the board members should have appointed a health and safety convenor to undertake risk assessments of the golf course and surrounding areas, to prevent members sustaining injuries. He argued that the board members should have known that failing to carry out regular inspections and maintenance would increase the chances of players being injured on the course.

“Mr Taylor failed to establish that the board members owed him a duty of care. However, that is not to say that no duty of care in respect of health and safety was owed at all, just not to the club’s members.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir February 10, 2017 13:51
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