The case I chose to do was Patrick Joseph Potter, Appellant, v. Green Meadows, Par 3, Appellee. The case was found in the Southern Reporter, volume 510 starting on page 1225. The District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District heard the case and made its decision on August 13, 1987; 510 So. 2d 1225 (Fla. App. 1 Dist. 1987).
Summary of Facts
The original case in question consisted of golfer being injured and filing charges of neglect against the owner of the Green Meadows Par 3 golf course for neglecting to maintain the “tee box” areas and this neglect resulted in the golfer receiving a serious eye injury. A final summary judgment was made in the Circuit Court of Escambia County in favor of the owner on the basis of assumption of risk. It was then appealed questioning the golfer’s knowledge of the risk and also once again questioning if the course owner was in negligent in maintaining the course. When the nine hole par three course was built each hole was set up with a tee box which was made out of a 5′ x 5′ slab of concrete that came above the ground anywhere from one to four inches depending on the lay of the land. The slab was then covered with a rubber strip that had a tee coming out of from which the golfers could tee off from. Over the years the wear and tear from the golfers many tee boxes became unusable because the tees in some cases were no longer there. On July 20, 1986 the appellant and his friend were golfing at Green Meadows a course that they each had grown up golfing at. Upon reaching the fourth hole they both decided to tee off about four feet behind the unusable tee box at that hole. Evidence was submitted that showed the great majority of golfers at Green Meadows chose to do this as well. This tee box like all the others was elevated above the ground, but this elevation was camouflaged by overgrown grass and was unable to be seen. When the appellant hit his shot he only caught the top of the ball sending it forward at ground level, hitting the rear edge of the tee box, it then ricocheted backwards striking the appellant in the eye and injuring him badly.
Legal Issues Presented to the Court
There were three main legal issues in this case. The first two legal issues deal with negligence from the plaintiff’s perspective and the other dealt with the question of summary judgment that plaintiff had assumed the risk by teeing off behind the tee box. Did the appellant except the doctrine of express assumption of risk by teeing off behind the tee box, thus baring him from recovery against neglect by the owner? Does the plaintiff who assumes a risk waive his right to recovery by the chance he has taken? Was the golfer indeed knowledgeable about the risk he had taken by teeing off behind a raised concrete slab serving as the tee box since it was camouflaged or was the owner of the course neglectful in maintaining the tee boxes?
Holding of the Court
The court deemed that defendant was not able to establish that negligence had not occurred and that it proximately caused the injury to the plaintiff. The court also stated that the previous summary judgment that declared the plaintiff assumed the risk which resulted in his injury was improper. The judgment was reversed and remanded and found in favor of the defendant.
Rationale of the Court
The court rejected the doctrine of implied assumption of risk as a bar to recovery against a negligent defendant because it is usually only occurs in the participation of contact sports, which does not apply to golf. On the basis that a plaintiff assumes a risk waives his right to recovery, was also not able to stand up because there was no way to determine that the plaintiff truly appreciated the risk he was taking since the concrete slab was camouflaged by overgrown grass. The owner was guilty of negligence because it is his job to prevent foreseeable injuries to participants since he is providing the facility at which a sport is being played. There was too much overwhelming evidence that the plaintiff was unaware of the elevated concrete slab of a tee box that he was teeing off behind which was the cause of his injury.
Professional and Personal Relevance of Case
I was very interesting both on a personal level as well as a professional level. Being an avid golfer I have experienced what it is like to get to a hole and find a tee box completely unusable with not one blade of grass on it. On a professional level it taught me the price of being cheap. The owner of this course could have kept up with maintaining his tee boxes by simply buying cheap rubber replacement tees to install in his tee boxes. The owner could have also made sure the grass around the tee boxes was cut so it did not camouflage the concrete slab the tee box was on and there would have been a much more obvious risk that the golfers would be assuming by teeing off from behind the box. Instead he was negligent in both of these standard practices of running a golf course. Since he failed to do each of these things he deserved to pay a much higher price in court.