August 21, 2009
John Eustis has one of the loudest voices I’ve ever heard on a golf course.
Fortunately, the Milford golf addict only lets loose with his big pipes when a golf ball is going in a bad direction. Within a second or two of the golf ball leaving the tee, we can count on a FORE RIGHT or FORE LEFT, loud enough for folks a hundred yards or more from us to stop what they’re doing and begin watching for an incoming round missile.
Last week a Pennsylvania Superior Court judicial panel took up an unusual golf injury lawsuit, where no such warning shouts were made. It reversed a lower court decision that blocked a trial from going forward.
As the appellate court said, “This case reminds us again of the utility of communication to prevent injury, even in the pastoral setting of a golf course and in the context of a game in which etiquette is as integral as skill.”
According to the suit papers, three men played together in a charity golf outing in June 2007 at Springfield Country Club, in Delaware County near Philadelphia. After teeing off on the 301-yard par 4 17th hole, Zeldman drove off in his golf cart over the crest of a hill in the fairway.
The other two golfers, Rashkow and Fisher, were the long hitters in the group. All three men were concerned that the group in front of them might still be in the likely landing areas of the next two tee shots, and all agreed Zeldman would do the checking for them.
Zeldman drove over the hill to watch the other group, and then headed back on the cart path on the left side of the fairway to tell the other two they were cleared to hit. Unbeknownst to Zeldman, however, Fisher and Rashkow had already seen the lead group drive their carts “out of the area”. Fisher also had a clear view of Zeldman in the cart as he went through his pre-shot routine.
Fisher never warned Zeldman that he was about to hit his tee shot. In the meantime, Zeldman was busy concentrating on keeping his cart on the path, and didn’t see Fisher hit his drive.
Unfortunately, Fisher smacked a duck hook, which as the court noted, “for a right-handed golfer, curves swiftly and sharply downward to the left, usually with considerable velocity.”
The errant drive struck Zeldman in the face, “causing serious and permanent injuries.”
In most states, folks engaged in sporting events, or even attending sports events such as ball games, are held to have assumed the risk of injury of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The lower court ruled against Zeldman in his suit against Fisher, based on that doctrine and a related legal ruling that Fisher owed no duty to Zeldman.
As the appellate court saw the facts, however, a jury could rule against Fisher for the injury: “[I]t is obvious Zeldman, on returning from his forward observer mission, did not consciously assume the risk of friendly fire when, to the contrary, he had every right to anticipate none of his playing partners would attempt a tee shot until his return to the tee box….Although a golfer’s participation in golf, like a spectator’s presence at a baseball game, may generally constitute an acceptance of risks inherent in the activity such that another golfer … may be relieved of a duty of care, we must always examine the circumstances surrounding the accident.”
“…Zeldman had presented evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact whether Fisher owed him a duty of care, and, since Fisher understood the forward observer mission undertaken by Zeldman, whether Fisher breached that duty of care causing injury and damages to Zeldman.” The appeals court held that Zeldman was entitled to his day in court to try to prove his case.
Even if a jury eventually rules against Zeldman, this case presents a valuable golf lesson. Always be aware of what the other members of your playing group are doing, and try to stay out of range of not only the good drives, but also the mishits.
Also, if you’re the one making the big slices or duck hooks, make sure you’re the one shouting “Fore!” as soon as possible.
Another Shawnee Hole In One
Congratulations to Steve Jebo for his August 15 hole-in-one at Shawnee Country Club. The Broadkill Beach resident used an 8-iron on the 113-yard par 3 thirteenth hole.