If a Golfer Fails to Yell "Fore," Does an Injured Person Have a Claim?

Recreational accidents in New York City happen in every imaginable situation, from a boating accident on the Hudson to a bike crash in Central Park. A day of sun, fun and exercise can turn dark quickly when a serious injury or death results from a person's negligence or an equipment failure. Despite the best precautions and practice, a participant can suffer harm due to circumstances beyond his or her control, such as dangerous playground attractions, a faulty amusement ride harness or a lifeguard's negligence.

Sometimes the danger comes from a companion. Such was the case for the plaintiff in recent New York personal injury litigation, who suffered blindness in one eye after being struck by a golf ball hit by one of his playing partners at Dix Hills Park Golf Course on Long Island. The man was hurt after his friend hit his third fairway shot on the first hole and did not yell the customary "fore" after the shot when awry. Despite the obvious connection between action and harm, the plaintiff's case stalled before it got to trial.

Proceeding Through New York Appellate Courts

The New York Court of Appeals recently heard arguments regarding an Appellate Division decision that affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the claim on defendant's summary judgment motion. The central issue the court will consider is whether the plaintiff assumed the risk of being hit by a golf ball as a golfing participant, as well as the defendant's duty to yell "fore" if he saw no one in the intended flight path of the ball.

New York state courts have considered similar issues before, most notably in a 1972 case, Jenks v. McGranaghan, which held that a "golfer has a duty to give a timely warning to other persons within the foreseeable ambit of danger." In the present case, a majority of the Appellate Division panel concluded that the plaintiff stood "at so great an angle away from the defendant and the intended line of flight that he was not in the foreseeable danger zone."

One dissenting Appellate Division justice wrote that the record contained conflicting evidence of the plaintiff's position, and also drew attention to the defendant's depositional testimony that he did not know where his companions were when he hit the ball. When such issues of fact remain, our system of legal redress requires that they must be resolved by a jury. The dissenting justice concluded that the pre-trial summary judgment motion should have been denied.

Enlisting the Experience of a Knowledgeable NYC Trial Lawyer

People who suffer a personal injury under any circumstance, from a premises liability accident to a motor vehicle collision, can learn a great deal about their legal options in a consultation with an attorney. Unlike many areas of law that are strictly defined by statutory definitions and documentary evidence, civil tort claims are often based to a large degree on an ever-evolving body of case law developed through courtroom litigation and appeals.

The lawyer's role in such cases has many aspects, but foremost among them is an ability to articulate theories of negligence and harm that cause opposing counsel and juries to recognize a client's right to recovery of damages. The court's interpretation of such legal concepts as duty, causation and knowledge can have a profound effect on any given claim. For that reason alone, diligent preparation and skillful persuasion are hallmarks of successful trial attorneys.

A personal injury attorney's legal strategy must adapt to the demands of each particular stage of a legal action. At the earliest opportunity, a client's injuries must be fully assessed to determine the degree of harm and its potential duration. By investigating the cause of the accident, an injury lawyer can help a client negotiate a settlement with defendants and insurance companies while simultaneously preparing the case for the long haul. From pre-trial motions to trial advocacy and beyond to potential appeals, plaintiff's counsel must have a comprehensive understanding of civil procedure and applicable legal doctrine.

For a person who suffers a debilitating injury or a family that loses a loved one due to another's negligence, recklessness or wrongdoing, the stakes are high. The ongoing impact of blindness, paralysis or a traumatic brain injury - or a lifetime of lost income and support - requires an aggressive and adept legal response. For the golfer severely injured by a failure to warn of imminent harm, his proper day in court still awaits the approval of the New York Court of Appeals.

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