It happens too often - after teeing off, playing partners scatter all over the golf course and hit their next shots when they are ready (without regard to the safety of those ahead of them). It's a breach of etiquette and it's not safe but usually golfers are protected from liability if their shots strike a player ahead on the course. I've written about these cases over at New York Injury Cases Blog here and here and Walter Olson has of course chronicled many such cases at Overlawyered.
Last week, a Pennsylvania appellate court dealt with a slight variation of this common fact pattern and ruled that the assumption of the risk doctrine does not protect long-ball hitter Troy Fisher. Troy, you see, could hit a golf ball 300 yards (that's Tiger Woods type distance) and the next hole was only 301 yards long; however, it was uphill so Troy and his playing partners could not see if the group ahead of them had finished the hole. One of those partners was Stuart Zeidman, who, like most of us, can't hit the ball 300 yards so Fisher had him go ahead to the crest of the hill to see what he could see and report back. On his way back, about 100 yards from the tee box where big Troy was waiting (or so he thought), Zeidman was struck in the face with a duck hook (a lousy shot) launched by Fisher.
That case, Zeidman v. Fisher, is going to trial (unless it settles beforehand) because Zeidman did not assume the risk of being hit by Fisher. It was Zeidman who was trying to help Fisher avoid hitting anyone in the group ahead and it was Fisher's duty, it seems, to wait for Zeidman to return to the tee box and a zone of safety.
Ironically, had Fisher teed off and struck a player in the group ahead on the next hole, there would have been no liability. Those players would be held to have assumed the risk.
Personal Note: This post concludes my week of guest blogging here at Point of Law. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to pitch in and work side by side with Walter Olson and the Manhattan Institute. I hope readers have enjoyed my efforts. I now head back to my home perch, New York Injury Cases Blog, where one can find posts that address in detail the valuation of pain and suffering in injury cases as well as other matters of interest to the legal community.