Retrial urged in unsuccessful action by spectator hit by golf ball

Colm Campbell argued golfer Kevin Le Blanc should have shouted ‘fore’ after ‘errant shot’

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has been urged to order a retrial of an unsuccessful damages action by a spectator who was hit by a golf ball and knocked unconscious at a golf tournament.

Last year, Colm Campbell (65), from Donegal Town, lost his High Court action over the incident at the Co Sligo Golf Club in Rosses Point on March 28th, 2016.

He had claimed golfer Kevin Le Blanc’s shot was errant and that he should have shouted “fore”.

The golfer and the event organisers said Mr Campbell was not looking at the shot but was engaged in conversation.

The High Court dismissed his action, saying Mr Campbell was not paying attention and was talking to friends when the ball was struck.

In his action, Mr Campbell said he was struck on the left side of his forehead and, as a result, he was in constant pain and his life had totally changed. He was attending the West of Ireland Championship for amateur golfers at the Co Sligo club.

He had sued the golf club and event organisers, the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) National Coaching Academy Ltd.

He also sued Mr Le Blanc, of Donabate, Dublin, who at the time was a top amateur golfer and later turned professional for a number of years.

It was claimed against Mr Le Blanc that his shot was errant and there was a fundamental obligation to shout “fore” because somebody could be in its way.

It was claimed against the County Sligo Golf Club and the GUI there was a failure to take reasonable care for the safety of spectators.

The court heard Mr Campbell had attended the event as a spectator over the years.

The High Court found, among other things, the situation on the ground of this championship competition was that, to a great extent, they were self-regulating and self-policing spectators.

All spectators were deemed to have been knowledgeable of the game of golf and would be reasonably expected to take care of their own safety, the High Court said.

In his appeal, Jonathan Kilfeather SC, for Mr Campbell, told the Court of Appeal on Thursday the High Court decision should not stand.

He said it was their case that the golfer was responsible for what happens to the golf ball after it is struck and must take “minimal steps” to ensure the safety of others.

The golfer, Mr Le Blanc, should have been aware, or ought to have known, there were people were standing where the ball eventually went. In this case, the golfer and his caddy were familiar with where people stood during this competition, counsel said.

Mr Kilfeather said the case should be sent back to the High Court for re-trial.

Finbarr Fox SC, for the golf club and the GUI, said the appeal lacked merit and should be dismissed.

Noel C McCarthy SC, for Mr Le Blanc, said this was not a wayward shot by his client and there was no duty on him to shout “fore” to warn anyone. The shot was a good shot and it ended up on a part of the course where Mr Campbell should not have been standing, he said.

The High Court decision confirmed this, was correct, and should stand, he said.

The three-judge court said it hoped to give its decision in four months’ time or sooner if possible.