The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to hear a Michigan sports accident case involving a golf cart injury from May 2013. The plaintiff and the defendant were playing the 17th hole at Farmington Hills Golf Club when the defendant struck the plaintiff with his cart. The plaintiff was hit in his rear end and knocked onto the ground. He was then struck a second time when the golf cart rolled over him. The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence in 2014.Prior to trial, the plaintiff moved for the trial court to hold that the defendant was negligent as a matter of law and that the case should proceed to trial on the issue of damages. The defendant argued the motion was improper because it cited an incorrect standard of review. The defendant further argued that reckless misconduct was the applicable standard of care because the parties were participating in a recreational activity when the injury occurred. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion, finding that the motion in limine contained factual issues the jury should decide.
At trial, both parties offered testimony regarding the defendant’s conduct on the golf course. The plaintiff agreed that the defendant was being careless–rather than reckless–when the collision occurred. Ultimately, the Oakland County jury concluded that the defendant was not reckless, and the court entered a judgment of no cause of action against the plaintiff.
The plaintiff appealed from the trial court’s judgment on the ground that the trial court applied an incorrect standard of care. In December 2016, the appeals court agreed and concluded that the trial court applied an incorrect standard of care. The court reasoned that it could not assume from the jury’s verdict finding that the defendant was not reckless (a higher standard than negligence) that the jury also would have concluded that the defendant was not negligent. The appeals court also found it clear from the parties’ testimony at trial that there remained a question of fact for the jury as to whether the defendant breached his duty of ordinary care. Therefore, the appeals court vacated the jury’s verdict, reversed the trial court’s order finding that reckless misconduct, as opposed to ordinary negligence, was the applicable standard under the circumstances of this case, and remanded for further proceedings.
Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court accepted the application for leave to appeal the appellate court’s judgment. The court directed the clerk to schedule oral arguments on whether to grant the application or take action. The state high court further ordered the appellant to file a supplemental brief addressing whether the reckless misconduct standard of care or the ordinary negligence standard of care applied to an injury resulting from the operation of a golf cart while playing golf recreationally. Finally, the court invited the Golf Association of Michigan and the Negligence Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan to file amicus curiae briefs.
This is not the only case of its kind. Earlier this year, New Yorker Joseph Erato alleged that he was struck by a golf cart in August 2014 at a Westchester County-run golf course.The accident allegedly happened when Erato was approaching a staircase at the golf course and while the golf course licensee’s staffers were lining up golf carts for patrons’ use. Erato submitted extensive medical records indicating that he was hospitalized for 51 days, during which he had six surgeries. The injuries claimed include a near-amputation of his left leg above the ankle and a fracture of his left tibia. The total proposed settlement was $2.7 million.
Also this year, a golf caddie filed a lawsuit over a golf cart crash at an Idaho golf course involving golf legend Phil Mickelson’s brother. Alicia McFadden says she was working as an independent contractor at the Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club’s Bull Rush tournament in August 2015 when the crash occurred. According to the lawsuit, McFadden was riding on the back of the cart driven by David Harbour. McFadden claimed that the men were inebriated and shirtless and that Harbour drove the golf cart recklessly before the crash. McFadden suffered serious injuries in the crash.
An oral argument date in the Michigan case has not yet been set.
The sports accident attorneys at the Neumann Law Group represent people throughout Michigan from offices in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Call us at (231) 463-0122 or at (616) 717-5666 for a free consultation.
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