When Lightning Strikes a Golfer, Is the Course Responsible?

The caddie master learned of lightning in the area and set off in a cart with the club pro to get players off the course. Suddenly there was a burst of flames behind the players. Who is liable for their injuries? You be the judge.

By Robin Gerber
lighteningiStock/Thinkstock

The Verdict:

A New Jersey trial court ruled the club didn’t have a legal duty to protect against acts of God and had no liability for Maussner’s injuries.

The judge noted that Maussner chose to walk across an open field when he could have sought shelter or lain down.

Maussner appealed to a higher court. The Superior Court of New Jersey said injuries through acts of God don’t exempt courses from liability. When a golf course takes steps to protect players from lightning strikes, it must implement safety precautions properly. It added that a jury should decide whether the club did so in the way it posted evacuation notices and monitored dangerous conditions, and if it should have built shelters and provided an audible signal. If a course uses a safety feature, “it owes a duty of reasonable care to its patrons to utilize it correctly,” said the court.

Facing liability for Maussner’s injuries, the Atlantic City Country Club decided to pay him a financial settlement rather than go to trial. Eventually Maussner made it back to the links with protective footwear—and an extra dose of caution.

Was justice served? Is the Country Club at fault for Maussner’s injuries? Sound off in the comments.

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