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ARTICLE ID 142663

$________ - PREMISES LIABLITY - DANGEROUS GRANITE TEE MARKER AT GOLF DRIVING RANGE - GOLF BALL RICOCHETS BACK FROM TEE MARKER AND STRIKES PLAINTIFF IN THE EYE - LOSS OF EYE - ENUCLEATION - MULTIPLE SURGERIES PERFORMED - ESOPHEGEAL CANCER ALLEGEDLY CAUSED BY EYE TREATMENT.

Hillsborough County

The plaintiff was a patron at the defendant’s golf driving range when he was struck in the eye by a golf ball which ricocheted off a low granite tee marker. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant created a dangerous condition by using raised granite tee markers to separate golfers on the driving range. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent in causing the accident.

The plaintiff hit a golf ball on the defendant’s driving range and the ball struck one of the small granite tee markers, which the defendant spaced six to eight feet apart to separate golfers on the driving range. The ball ricocheted off the marker and struck the plaintiff in the eye.

The granite tee markers were the same tee markers used on the golf course to mark the tees. The plaintiff asserted that the use of raised markers to define a hitting area anywhere on the course is unreasonably dangerous; especially at the practice area where golfers are hitting close to each other and are more likely to errant shots while practicing. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant knew, or should have known, that a golf ball could strike the tee marker and ricochet back, creating a danger to golfers using the driving range. The plaintiff’s expert opined that golfers should have been separated by a chalk line laid across the front and rear of the hitting area. The distance between golfers can also be identified by a bag rack or other marker to the rear of the golfers to keep them properly spaced, according to the plaintiff’s expert.

The plaintiff sustained a severe ruptured globe of the right eye, inferior orbital blowout fracture with nerve and muscle entrapment and retinal detachment as a result of the accident. He underwent operative repair of the direct trauma to the eye and also underwent multiple procedures over the course of a year. However, it was ultimately determined that the eye could not be saved.

One of the plaintiff’s treatments involved the plaintiff lying on his stomach for long periods of time to relieve eye pressure. The plaintiff alleged that this treatment triggered esophageal cancer that was diagnosed about a year after the eye treatments. The plaintiff, age 42 at the time of the accident, was fitted with a prosthetic eye and was able to see out of his remaining left eye. The plaintiff returned in a limited capacity to his employment as an executive for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida, Inc. He claimed a diminished future earning capacity as a result of his injury.

Due to the risk of sympathetic blindness and additional trauma, the plaintiff’s doctors advised him to limit activities to avoid risk of eye injury. The plaintiff’s doctors also reported that esophageal cancer has a very high mortality rate. The plaintiff underwent an experimental protocol for treatment of the cancer and is currently with no evidence of disease. The plaintiff was married and contended that he and his wife were planning to start a family at the time of the incident. However, the plaintiff contended that the eye trauma and then cancer lead them to defer or not have children at all.

The defendant maintained that the plaintiff was comparatively negligent and that such an event is an inherent risk of the sport assumed by plaintiff. The defense also contended that the plaintiff’s esophageal cancer was unrelated to the eye injury and that the plaintiff’s loss of vision in one eye did not prevent him from returning to his pre-injury ability to work.

The case settled prior to trial for the defendant’s $1 million primary policy limit.

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