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400,000 Pounds Damages for Golf Ball Eye Injury

November 4, 2011

A novice golfer, who lost an eye when he was hit by a wayward golf ball, is to receive 400,000 pounds in damages after a ruling in Edinburgh´s Court of Sessions.

Anthony Phee (44) from Manchester was playing with three colleagues at the Niddry Castle Golf Course in Winchburgh, West Lothian when the accident occurred in August 2007. A sliced tee shot by golfer James Gordon missed the 18th fairway and hit Mr Phee as he and his colleagues walked from the sixth green to the seventh tee.

After it was confirmed that Mr Phee would permanently lose his sight in his left eye, he sought legal advice and sued both Mr Gordon and the Niddry Castle Golf Course for eye injury compensation; claiming that the player was at fault for making an unsafe shot, and that the golf course had failed in its duty of care to protect the public on its premises.

After hearing evidence from all three parties, Lord Brailsford ruled that Mr Gordon was 70 per cent liable for Mr Phee´s injury and 30 per cent of the damages should be paid by the golf club for its failure to erect warning signs on the course. He justified his decision by stating “When Mr Gordon arrived at the 18th tee on the day in question, he made the error of over-estimating the likelihood of his tee shot following its desired or intended path to its intended target and, simultaneously, under-estimating the degree of risk to which his shot would place the pursuer and his three companions then proceeding on the path between the 6th green and the 7th tee.”

Lord Brailsford continued, “On the basis of his own evidence, I consider that these errors were caused by an inflated degree of confidence occasioned by what Mr Gordon considered, wrongly in my view, to be the very good round of golf he was having. As a result of this overconfidence, Mr Gordon made his tee shot at a time when the exercise of reasonable care should have informed him that there was a foreseeable risk that his shot might be bad and, further, might encroach on the area being traversed by the pursuer. I consider that these risks should have been within the contemplation of Mr Gordon because he should have appreciated that every golfer, no matter his or her degree of competence, will make bad shots”.

In respect of the golf course´s liability, the judge had this to say – “Experts considered that signs would have been a proper and effective way to draw risk to the attention of golfers and, moreover, that such signs, had they existed, would have been likely to have been heeded. I accordingly form the view that the failure to provide signs either at the 18th tee or in the area between the 6th green and 7th tee was a failure of duty”.