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Torrey Pines: Sports Injuries

Torrey Pines has many golf courses as do other areas of San Diego County including the Rancho Bernardo Inn located in Rancho Bernardo where our law firm is located. The below example did not occur at any of the Torrey Pines courses. Our firm of Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation, LLP can assist you with representation in estate planning or family law. Please feel free to e mail or call our firm to set up a complimentary and confidential consultation.

Patrick and his friend Christopher decided to get in some late-afternoon golf on a summer day that had seen periods of turbulent weather, but also some clear skies. As Christopher held the flag for Patrick to putt, a golf course employee sounded a horn to warn of lightning in the area. Patrick putted out to finish the hole. Then the two friends started walking back to the clubhouse, which was about a quarter of a mile away. On their way, they were struck by lightning. Christopher was rendered unconscious for a few moments, but Patrick suffered serious injuries, and he now needs total care.

A negligence suit by Patrick’s parents against the golf course owner was unsuccessful. For an owner of property to be liable for injuries to someone on the property, the injury must have been foreseeable. Without that, no duty of care arises in favor of the injured person. Practically everyone knows that lightning is dangerous, but that is quite different from being able to foresee that a particular lightning strike may occur.

Even assuming that the golf course operators owed a duty to Patrick, they did not breach that duty. Patrick and Christopher were given notice that lightning was in the vicinity by means of the horn, which sounded about 10 minutes before the strike that injured Patrick. That would have been enough time to get back to the clubhouse had the boys immediately heeded the warning. Aside from the specific audible warning, a prominent sign at the course warned all golfers that they were playing at their own risk and that when lightning was in the area they were to return to the clubhouse.

The sobering lessons from this case are that golfers themselves bear the most responsibility for protecting themselves from lightning, and that to delay in seeking shelter when lightning is near is to risk a tragic outcome.

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