Golfer receives payout for lost finger because he wasn’t a member

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 1, 2021 10:13

A golfer who lost a finger while working with machinery in a voluntary capacity at a golf club has received an £85,000 payout because he didn’t pay his full membership subscription on time.

Scratch golfer Mark McGroarty had been a member of Cobh Golf Club in Ireland, but the membership had expired, when he agreed to assist a qualified carpenter – who was a member – with the erection of timber cladding on the pro shop at the club in 2015, as the usual assistant worker had been unable to work.

He was asked to hold a long plank of timber balanced on a single milk crate while the carpenter cut it with a circular electric saw. However, while holding it, the carpenter lost control of the saw, and it made contact with McGroarty’s left hand, partially severing his left index finger, which later had to be amputated, reports the Irish Examiner.

McGroarty sued the four trustees of the club and the carpenter, claiming they owed him a duty of care and their negligence caused his injury. The defendants denied liability.

The trustees claimed because he was a member of the club he cannot sue the other members of the golf club.

McGroarty argued he was not a member at the time due to his subscription not having been paid up at the time prescribed by the constitution of the club. He was therefore entitled to recover damages against the defendants.

Ms Justice Niamh Hyland agreed, ruling that McGroarty was not a paid-up member at the time and could therefore sue the golf club.

She ruled that the constitution of the club, properly interpreted, requires that a member’s subscription is to be paid by January 31 each year, failing which membership shall be deemed to be terminated.

She said it was true the practice of the club was to ignore this rule and to treat persons, including McGroarty, as members even where the subscription had not been paid. She noted that McGroarty had entered club competitions and represented the club on teams playing interclub tournaments, although he had paid only a small part of his subscription by January 31, 2015. He had been a member since 2010.

However, she said, following a decision in a previous case, the rules of clubs cannot be taken to be altered by implication, including by the practice of a club, in circumstances where those rules represent a contract between all of the members. It was also in circumstances where the members commit their efforts and resources to the club on the basis of the rules as they exist at the time of someone joining.

The club’s acceptance of a payment by McGroarty – though less than the subscription amount – after the termination date does not alter the situation, she said. There was no evidence the club had reinstated him after his membership was terminated, or that this payment was a reinstatement payment, she said.

Nor was there any evidence of a waiver by the club of its requirements in relation to payment of the subscription.

She found he was not a member of the club at the relevant date and is therefore entitled to recover damages against the defendants.

The judge accepted he had suffered excruciating pain “which has now happily lessened with the passage of time but he still requires significant pain relief.” She took into account that he was a particularly skilled and committed golfer who was devastated by the loss of his former ability following the accident.

She accepted the evidence elicited from him during cross-examination that he has to a certain extent returned to golf and managed to compete in a competition.

However, the judge said she was persuaded that his ability to participate in golf has been greatly diminished and this has had a negative effect on his well-being.

The judge said the appropriate sum to compensate for his pain and suffering to date and into the future, plus special damages, is €101,495 (just over £85,000).


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 1, 2021 10:13
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