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Who Is Liable When Balls Cause Affect? -Golf Course & Community Safety

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Posted by Duane McPherson, CMCA, PCAM® on Aug 14, 2019 7:42:00 AM

golf ball on the courseLiving near a golf course is a dream for those who love to play a popular sport. When the swing of a golf club sends a ball through a nearby window or into a car, questions of liability quickly arise. Someone must pay for the repairs and discovering who the responsibility belongs to isn't easy. There are a variety of circumstances that contribute to finding fault and each case is different. Let's take a closer look at how an errant golf ball can result in finger-pointing and a blame game that delays repairs and creates tension among HOA members

The Issue of Nuisance

It is understandable that people are protective of their personal property. Choosing to live near a golf course is risky simply due to the opportunity for a golf ball to go astray. A nuisance, as defined in law, means, "Excessive or unlawful use of one's property to the extent of the unreasonable annoyance or inconvenience to a neighbor or the public."

In the case of Sans v. Ramsey Golf and Country Club, Inc., a homeowner sued to stop the use of a certain tee due to problems with errant golf balls from that particular location. The court noted two important facts:

1. The homeowners who purchased homes bordering the course must be held to have taken the "discomforts of such proximity." In other words, the homeowners assumed some risk with their home purchase.

2. Both the developer and the owner of the residential community are bound to lay out a golf course with fair regard toward the comfort of homes that border the course. If, however, there is a repeated, known problem with a section of the course, it must be addressed. The ultimate finding of responsibility lies within the intended reasonable use of the course.

Can an Association be Held Liable?

Florida is one of the most popular states for playing golf. The warm weather provides suitable weather for gathering with friends for a day on the course. For those who live and golf within their association, where does the association's responsibility begin and the player's end when it comes to damage from bad swings?

The Supreme Court of Florida has established that a golfer must exercise due care for the safety of others within close range. Other Florida courts have established that the owner of a golf course is not expected to maintain the course to such a level that no accident can occur.

Community associations can be liable under certain conditions. HOA associations have a responsibility to protect members from foreseeable dangers, however, golf ball liability is hard to prove. Chances are, the homeowner may never know which golfer struck the errant ball that resulted in damage to their personal property. Additionally, the risk of living near the course is one the homeowner chose to take. All these factors make the balance between responsibility and assumed risk tricky when it comes to finding a resolution. 

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Duane McPherson, CMCA, PCAM®

Duane McPherson, CMCA, PCAM®

Over 30 years experience in property and community association management Professional Community Association Manager through the Community Association Institute (CAI) Former GM/CEO of a large-scale association: mixed-use commercial, residential and recreational Contributor to National industry experience