Flying Golf Balls: Court of Appeal Denies Government Immunity

Flying Golf Balls: Court of Appeal Denies Government Immunity

Can a city claim immunity from injury lawsuits when an errant golf ball leaves a city-owned golf course, which is operated by a private company, and injures a pedestrian on an adjacent public walkway?

That is the question decided this week by the California Court of Appeal in Garcia v. American Golf Corp.

Jacobo Garcia, a minor, was in his stroller being pushed along West Drive, which borders the Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena.  Brookside is owned by the city of Pasadena, but operated by American Golf Corporation.  An errant golf ball slammed into Jacobo, causing brain injuries.

Jacobo’s parents sued the City of Pasadena, arguing that the City allowed a dangerous condition of public property to go unrepaired.  They argued that there should have been fences along the golf course to contain flying golf balls.

Pasadena defended on the grounds of trail immunity.  As I’ve discussed before, trail immunity offers governments immunity from injury lawsuits when an injury occurs on a trail leading to a publicly owned recreational property.

The trial court agreed with Pasadena.  This week, the Court of Appeal reversed.

The Court held that since Jacobo Garcia was not on a trail, but on a public street when he was hit by the flying golf ball, trail immunity does not apply.

According to the Court, trail immunity does not apply when 1) a golf course is adjacent to a trail abutting a public street; 2) a golf course is a commercially operated, revenue-generating enterprise; 3) a golf course has a dangerous condition that exposes people outside it to a risk of harm from third parties hitting errant golf balls; 4) the dangerous condition of the golf course caused harm to a user of the trail.

This is the second case the Court of Appeal decided this year involving flying golf balls and the trail immunity defense.

For questions about your injuries suffered on a golf course, or Los Angeles accident case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6.