Sports Law • Risk Management

Golf Carts Present a Risk to Golf Courses and Tournament Organizers

Golf carts used for practice and in tournaments present a hazard for players and where injuries have been suffered, injured parties have filed lawsuits against golf clubs and other parties. The following are summaries of several appellate court decisions of cases involving the use of golf carts that are helpful to understand the risk of injuries whenever golf carts are utilized.

The first case, MacDonald v. B.M.D. Golf Associates, Inc., 148 N.H. 582, 813 A.2d 488 (2002), arose out of an incident when Plaintiff injured his ankle when a golf cart he was riding in at Defendant’s Indian Mound Golf Club. The golf cart driver, an adolescent boy, mistakenly turned right at a fork in the road. When he tried to correct the mistake, he caused the cart to overturn. The boy admitted at the scene that he was not supposed to be driving the cart. The golf course prevailed at trial. The Plaintiff appealed the verdict and won on appeal, so that the case was reversed and remanded to the trial court for a new trial. The lesson from this case is that it is a good idea for golf courses and golf tournament organizers to establish rules prohibiting children from driving golf carts.

Some golf cart accidents are difficult to anticipate. In Pine v. Arruda, 448 F.Supp.2d 282 (D.Mass. 2006), Beverly Pine and Jean Arruda were golfing in a tournament at the Hawthorne Country Club, when a lightning storm began and a siren signaled the players to get off the course. Pine and Arruda followed the instructions, but had left Pine’s golf clubs on the seat of their golf cart. They decided to move the cart in order to protect the clubs. In the process of doing this, the golf clubs fell on the floor of the car, depressing the accelerator, knocking Pine to the ground and running over her, causing injury. Pine filed a lawsuit against Arruda and the Hawthorne Country Club.

Plaintiff claimed that Hawthorne was negligent for failing to stop the tournament earlier and failing to exercise due care by not having covered storage for its golf carts. The court determined that Hawthorne owed a duty to Plaintiff and so was required to maintain the course in a reasonably safe condition. However, the court found that no reasonable jury would find Hawthorne negligent, because it could not have anticipated that the lack of covered parking for golf carts would cause a golf cart to run over a guest. The incident in question was not reasonably foreseeable.
The facts of this case are unusual and likely not to have been anticipated by the golf course who apparently were the tournament organizers.