Alan Neufeld was recently interviewed on ESPN Radio. In the interview, he discusses how he represented a general contractor, hired by a homeowner, who lived on a golf course called Bonaventure. The homeowner hired the contractor because he had a problem with golf balls breaking home windows, windshields, pool pump, etc… and while in the threshold of the house, a ball comes screaming in and hits the contractor in the eye, blinding him in that eye.
Three potential defendants: (1) golf course; (2) homeowners insurance; (3) golfer who hit the shot.
Mr. Neufeld hired a prominent golf architect, who examined the history of this particular hole and learned that it had once been mostly straight. Let me explain: the golf architect discussed the concept of the perceived middle of the fairway.
When a golfer sets up on the tee, he/she will aim at the perceived middle of the fairway. Anything within 15 degrees of the middle of the fairway is considered a safe zone by golf architects. When this hole was originally developed, there was a small tree to the right that, at the time, did not alter the percieved middle of the fairway and thus the homes on left were not bombarded with golf balls. But, over the years, the tree grew and grew the golfer’s percieved middle of the fairway started to creep leftwards…and the more the homes to the left started seeing an increase in damage caused by errant golf balls. Correspondingly, the pro shop and association started recording a significant increase in the number of related complaints…to which they essentially responded by saying not our problem.
By the way, as far as the individual golfer that hit the shot blinding our client…he was only included in the law suit as part of trial strategy. On closing argument, Mr. Neufeld stated, I don’t think he did anything wrong. He just hit a lousy shots…and all golfer hit lousy shots. But had to include him in the lawsuit because, if I didn’t, the other two defendants would have been pointing at the empty chair saying, where is the REAL culprit, how do we know he wasn’t AIMING for the house. There would have been all these unknown answers to such questions.
If the golf club or association did what Neufeld did and hired an expert to figure out what the problem was (after multiple complaints of property damage and personal injuries), this case would never have materialized. The solution was so simple (and inexpensive), just trim back the tree to return the perceived-middle-of-the-fairway to its original condition.
Instead the plaintiff was awarded $2.9 Million Dollars to compensate the client for the loss of his eye. The jury determined that our client was 10% at fault and fully exonerated the golfer who hit the shot. Bonaventure then appealed to the 4th DCA and had to pay an additional $300,000 in interest after we won on appeal.