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Last Update: 01/05/16

Florida is a golf mecca; there are many beautiful golf courses here in South Florida, and many of the nice hotels and resorts in the Miami Dade – Broward – Palm Beach area include golf courses among the amenities that they offer to their guests. In fact, dedicated golfers around the country are well aware of our great golf courses and plan vacations here to take advantage of them.

Did you know, that the film Caddyshack was filmed here in South Florida? Scenes of Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Miami can be seen in the comedy classic including Miami’s beautiful and historic Biltmore Hotel with its Donald Ross course.

Does a Hotel Owe a Duty of Care to a Guest Using the Golf Course?

There’s a reason that golfers are supposed to yell a warning (”fore!”) when they hit that golf ball — it’s because there is a real danger that their golf ball will hit and hurt someone on the greens. Golf balls hit people a lot more than you think.  It happens so often, that the owner and operator of the golf course can be held liable for injuries to their guests.

As in other instances of hotel premises liability, the hotel owes a duty of reasonable care to those people that it has invited onto the hotel property for whatever reason. Hotel owners and operators are liable to keep their guests and invitees safe not just in the lobby or in the hotel suite, or around the pool or during a private party, but also outside on the grounds and landscaped areas.

Like the rest of the hotel property, if you are playing on a hotel golf course, the hotel has a duty to keep you safe while you enjoy your time there.

{Note: Golf courses are also the place where there are lots of accidents and injuries involving golf carts. A golf cart is considered a “dangerous instrumentality” and is given special treatment under Florida law — we’ll have a separate post discussing golf cart accidents and their liability and damages issues. See, Am. States Ins. Co. v. Baroletti, 566 So.2d 314 (Fla. 2d DCA 1990).}

Are Golf Courses a Dangerous Place?

However, golf balls are not the only thing that can hit and hurt someone on a Florida golf course. Consider the case of the falling scoreboard:

Psl golf course

In Wallace v. Boca Raton Properties, 99 So. 2d 637 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1958), a Miami sportswriter was assigned to cover a local golf tournament which was being held at a swanky Boca Raton hotel golf course. When the reporter got there, the hotel staff greeted him, got him set up with a free room (meals were also gratis) and took him to a table near the scoreboard. The tourney’s scoreboard access seemed like a prime location for the guy who was covering the golf tourney right?

The reporter took his place at the tourney table at the time of the golf tournament and worked there without a problem for a couple of hours. He was taking notes, doing his job. He didn’t notice any problems.

In fact, things were going great until the scoreboard came lose from the wall in 25 – 30 mph winds and fell, hitting the sportswriter and seriously injuring him. When he asked the hotel to take responsibility for what had happened, they refused.

He wasn’t a paying guest! And the sign falling down from the wind, that was an Act of God!

So, the sportswriter sued.

The court held that while the hotel argued that he wasn’t a hotel guest so they didn’t have a big legal duty to him (he was a mere “occupier” of the premises, little more than a trespasser in their view), the reporter had been expressly invited by the hotel to cover their event and thereby promote both the tournament directly, and the hotel, indirectly.

As such, he was a legal guest of the hotel for purposes of premises liability law. The fact that the hotel had complimented him with his room and meals (”comped”) didn’t change their legal responsibility to him.

The Boca Raton hotel owed the accident victim the duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition and to guard against subjecting the plaintiff to “dangers of which the owner or occupant was cognizant or might reasonably have foreseen.” See, First Federal Savings & Loan Ass’n v. Wylie, Fla. 1950, 46 So.2d 396.

What Should You Do Now?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed at a business or commercial location, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.



Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.



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