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ON PROXIMATE CAUSE Premises Liability – Negligent maintenance – Alleged dangerous golf course – Cart topples as traveling down steep incline and lands on leg, causing dislocation of left knee and torn ligaments, requiring closed reduction and angiography to determine vascular integrity.

Saratoga County, NY

The plaintiff, approximately 50 years old, who was operating a golf cart owned by the defendant course, contended that the course was dangerous. He maintained that a very significant amount of leaves were on the ground, increasing the hazard stemming from the steep grade and wet nature of the path at the time. The plaintiff also claimed the cart tires were bald. The plaintiff’s passenger – who had been friends with the plaintiff for years – testified that there were no problems with the cart prior to the incident, and indicated that the cart was going very quickly down the hill and continued to pick up speed. The witness opined that he never felt the plaintiff apply the brakes and was unsure if the plaintiff stuck his leg out to stop the cart from tipping over. The witness also testified that a few weeks after the event, he and the plaintiff got together, talked about the incident, and came up with “theories” of how it happened. The plaintiff mentioned two theories: The steep, windy hill and the wet leaves on the ground. The witness testified that he added the “theory” of bald tires. A third golfer – who was in the cart behind the plaintiff – and who heard, but did not see the accident, testified that when he got to the location where the cart had tipped, the ground was extremely slippery and wet. The individual, who was the club supervisor at the time, testified for the defendant that he had done his daily drive through of the cart path several hours before the incident. The witness indicated that he noticed leaves on the path at that time and, although he did not believe the amount of leaves constituted a danger, he still asked an employee to blow this area off, further testifying that this was the course’s regular practice. The course’s former mechanic indicated that he drove the cart back after the incident and there were no issues with the tires or brakes on the drive back. The witness further testified that, although the cart needed repairs, all were cosmetic and not mechanical in nature.

An employee of the defendant indicated that she took photographs shortly after the incident, and the defendant argued that the jury could observe that there were minimal leaves on the path. A former club partner testified that from the time the club – which is no longer in existence – opened in ________ until the Oct., ________ incident, approximately ________ golfers would have traversed this path, 90% of whom were in carts. The witness indicated that there were no prior incidents. The witness also testified that he spoke to the plaintiff approximately one week after the incident, and that the plaintiff admitted that he must have been going too fast. The plaintiff denied making such a comment.

There was no expert testimony.The jury found 5-1 that the defendant was negligent, but that such negligence was not a substantial factor in the incident.

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