01 September, 2016
Dickman v West Malling Golf Club [Kent] Limited
Maidstone CC - July 2016
District Judge Sullivan
The claimant suffered an injury whilst playing at a Golf Club he had been a member of for over 15 years. At the 16th hole he had driven his ball towards the 17th tee. The 17th tee was lower than the 16th and could be accessed either by walking down a sloping bank or by using the steps constructed by way of railway sleepers placed in the bank. As the claimant proceeded down the steps to find his ball, he fell and severely injured his leg. Various allegations were raised regarding the safety and design of the golf course.
The allegations were robustly denied by the Golf Club's Insurers, Sportscover Europe, pre-litigation.
During the trial, the claimant accepted that it was his choice to use the steps, and he accepted that if he had used the alternative route he would probably not have fallen. He could not say why he did not take the alternative route if he was now alleging the steps were dangerous.
The Judge stressed that the course was situated in a rural setting and that the steps appeared to have been designed with that in mind. She found that it must be expected by visitors that in wet or damp conditions the ground may be slippery and therefore extra care should be exercised. Although, the Judge did not accept that golfers play entirely at their own risk, she emphasised that visitors must be responsible to a certain extent for their own use of the premises during play.
The steps were checked every day and work was carried out as and when required as part of ground maintenance checks. The Judge deemed this to be reasonable in the circumstances. Once the course was open and rounds of golf were being played, the defendant could not be expected to do more unless put on specific notice of a problem. The case was therefore dismissed with the Claimant ordered to pay the defendants legal costs.
We welcome the practical and common sense stance adopted by the Judge in this case. To avoid claims of this kind we recommend that golf clubs and other sports providers should carry out detailed written risk assessments and ensure adequate warning signs are put in place to warn visitors of foreseeable risks in relation to either the premises or the activity being undertaken.
For more information, please contact Ridwaan Omar by email or call 01254 662831.