Golf + lawyers: a primer

What do you do when you're at the U.S. Open in Merion and you get smacked on the head with an errant drive? You can let the player give you a signed glove, as is customary. Or you can sue -- as spectators sometimes have -- and White and Williams defense litigator Randy Maniloff's Coverage Opinions warns how long it takes for courts to unravel those cases, and how golf is legally very distinct from, say, baseball, in my story in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer here. He even introduces us to a guy who insures those hole-in-one massive-payout promotions for a living.

But what if you live next to the course -- and golf becomes a personal hazard and a property nuisance? asks Ed Horenburger. "I live next to the 8th hole at Llanerch. My trucks have been hit serveral times, two windshields replaced, dents remain. One time I was standing near my kitchen door and a ball landed at my feet!"

Course managers have been sympathethic to talk to -- he got a nice lunch out of one hit, and a previous manager paid $150 of his $400 damages from another -- but the club has declined to go further and install nets "to keep the errant super-balls from flying onto Steel Road onto my property." Horenburger says he's not the suing type generally -- "but I don't like the attitude (where) they basically say, 'You bought a house next to a golf course, what do you expect!" 

I ran that by Maniloff. He quick searched up four roughly similar cases, including two trials and an appellate decision that found for the homeowner, and one that found for the golf course. Apparently it helps the complaint when a neighbor can show a history of hits and failure by the course to reconfigure things, over time, so fewer errant balls threaten civilians or their property.