Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Did New York's Court of Appeals Shank Golf Case?

The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that a golfer was not required to shout "Fore" after an errant shot:
Dr. Anoop Kapoor and Dr. Azad Anand were playing on a nine-hole Long Island course in October 2002 when Anand was hit in the head while looking for his ball on a fairway, blinding him in one eye. The seven judges on the state Court of Appeals, siding with lower courts, said Kapoor's failure to yell in advance of his errant shot from the rough did not amount to intentional or reckless conduct.

The court cited a judge's finding that Anand was not in the foreseeable zone of danger and, as a golfer, consented to the inherent risks of the sport.

"The manner in which Anand was injured — being hit without warning by a 'shanked' shot while one searches for one's own ball — reflects a commonly appreciated risk of golf," the judges wrote.

They also broadly outlined the test under New York case law for determining when another golfer crosses the line and could be sued.
The 3-page decision can be found here (Anand v. Kapoor, N.Y.S. Ct. App., No. 222, 12/21/2010).

As someone who attempts to play golf, fore is an all too frequently used epitaph for shanked, hooked, and otherwise mishit shots. Golf etiquette dictates shouting fore as a warning and there's good reason to do so as it gives other golfers the potential opportunity to avoid being hit by a mishit ball.

This decision would appear to make the "fore" call unnecessary on New York courses because any golfer on the course has consented to the risks (assumption of risk) and was in a foreseeable zone of danger. However, a golfer should try to minimize the potential risks to others during a mishit shot, and therefore calling fore is and should be appropriate. It is possible that the court's decision has made golfers more apt to be hit and injured by mishit balls than if they had allowed the case to proceed.

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