Spectator who was hit by a golf ball loses court case

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 9, 2021 07:49

A spectator at a golf event who was hit on the head by a golf ball has failed to win his claim against the golfer, the golf club and The Golfing Union of Ireland.

Colm Campbell was knocked unconscious when he was struck on the left side of his forehead during the West of Ireland Championship for amateur golfers held at County Sligo Golf Club, Sligo in 2016.

He had claimed at Ireland’s High Court that he is in constant pain and his life has been totally changed since, reports the Irish Times.

He had sued the golfer Kevin Le Blanc, who was at the time a leading amateur player, as well as County Sligo Golf Club and the organisers of the competition, The Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI).

However, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said she had not been able to find in favour of Mr Campbell in any respect.

The 65-year old father of three now faces a substantial legal costs bill from the action which was heard over six days in the High Court after the judge also made an order for costs against him. She granted a stay on the order for 28 days in the event of an appeal.

Ms Justice O’Hanlon said we have to keep in mind that the event was an amateur sport although played at an elite amateur level and Mr Campbell was a recreational user “responsible to a huge extent, as matters played out, for his own safety”.

Dismissing Mr Campbell’s action, the judge said the conclusion of the court was that with 40 seconds to play his shot, it would be “completely impractical and unreasonable” to have expected Kevin Le Blanc to have walked up, clarified his line of vision and walked back before he hit the ball, as Mr Campbell’s side had suggested he should have.

The preponderance of the evidence, Ms Justice O’Hanlon said, supported the contention of the defendants that no case has been actually made out against them.

Mr Campbell’s representatives contended Mr Le Blanc, who was in the rough close to the 11th green and 12th tee box, hit the ball which overshot the green and hit Mr Campbell on the head.

They submitted it was “an errant shot” and there had been a fundamental obligation to on Mr Le Blanc shout ‘fore’ because somebody could be in its way.

It was claimed Mr Le Blanc had failed to warn spectators, including Mr Campbell, of dangers of which he ought to have been aware.

In the cases of County Sligo Golf Club and the GUI, it was claimed that they had failed to take reasonable care for the safety of spectators and failed to give any warnings to those attending the competition that they ought not be located at the place where Mr Campbell suffered the injury.

All the claims were denied and it was contended there was alleged contributory negligence on the part of Mr Campbell who was engaged in conversation and not looking at the golfer as he took the shot.

In her judgement, Ms Justice O’Hanlon said golfer Kevin LeBlanc, who gave evidence, was “most impressive, understated but very honest and very credible”.

She said he was a highly experienced elite amateur golfer who knew his game. He said had he been aware there were people who were to the left of the green and if his ball was heading towards them, he would have shouted “fore” but he was not aware there were people standing so close to the green.

The court noted that he had had 40 seconds to hit the shot and had, he had said in evidence, had to be very careful. He took a look at the yardage book, got the intended line and hit the ball along the intended line and both he and his caddy were happy with this, the judge said.

Referring to Mr Campbell’s evidence, the judge said that Mr Campbell had been not paying attention at all when the incident occurred.

“He was not looking at play, he described people looking for a ball and that he was talking to his friends,” the judge said.

“The situation on the ground of this championship was that to a great extent they were self-regulating and self-policing spectators. All spectators were deemed to have been knowledgeable of the game of golf and would be reasonably expected to take care of their own safety accordingly” Ms Justice O’Hanlon said.

This is the latest in a long line of legal hearings in Great Britain and Ireland surrounding people being hit by golf balls. In 2013 golfer Anthony Phee was awarded nearly £400,000 when he lost an eye after being struck by a golf ball at Niddry Castle Golf Club. Both the golfer who hit the ball and the club were ordered to pay the sum. In 2014 Mary Brennan was awarded nearly £200,000 after she suffered a stroke when a golf ball hit her on the head, while she was standing on the clubhouse balcony at Old Conna Golf Club. In 2015 John Ure received £10,000 after a judge ruled that a fellow amateur player’s drive was so wayward that he deserved a payout, after sustaining a head injury at Bellshill Golf Club. In 2016, a ruling went against a golfer who sued his club after he was hit on the head by a stray ball. And in 2017 a golf club paid out £125,000 to a man who was hit on the head by a golf ball when he was a teenage golfer at the club 10 years earlier.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 9, 2021 07:49
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