Man Injured in Golf Cart Crash Can’t Bring Claim

The Indiana Court of Appeals decided a case where a golfer was injured when his golf cart was rear ended by the golf cart of another participant in the golf outing. Chamernik was driving a golf cart when he rear ended Wooten who was riding in another golf cart. Wooten filed a negligence lawsuit against Caesers (owner of the course) and Chamernik. Chamernik filed for summary judgment which was granted by the trial court.

The issue on appeal was whether the trial court properly concluded that Chamernik’s conduct of driving the golf cart during a golf scramble fell within the ordinary range of behavior of participants in golf, as interpreted by the Indiana Supreme Court in Pfenning v. Lineman, 947 N.E.2d 392 (Ind. 2011).

 Wooten argued that the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment to Chamernik on Wooten’s negligence claim because Chamernik’s action during the golf game was outside the range of ordinary behavior of participants in golf. The duty of care owed by participants in athletic events was recently addressed by our supreme court in its pivotal opinion of Pfenning v. Lineman, 947 N.E.2d 392 (Ind. 2011). In Pfenning, a 16 year old who was driving a beverage cart on the course was struck by a golf ball hit by Lineman. The Indiana Supreme Court adopted the view that summary judgment is proper when the conduct of a sports participant is within the range of ordinary behavior of participants in the sport and therefore is reasonable as a matter of law.

Wooten argued that crashing a golf cart into another golf cart is not within the range of ordinary behavior. He argued that because golf carts are not necessary for playing the game of golf, it cannot be said that golf cart activities are ordinary behavior or are an inherent risk in the game of golf. The Court noted that the golf cart had become part and parcel of the modern golf game. Wooten himself admitted that it has become common and expected for golf carts to bump into each other. The Court recognized that while these actions could be actionable outside of the golfing context, this conduct, like hitting an errant drive or the lack of yelling “fore” in Pfenning, has now become within the range of ordinary behavior of participants in golf and therefore, as a matter of law, cannot support a claim for negligence. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of Chamernik.

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