Golfer awarded €274k after she was hit in head by ball
A golfer who suffered a stroke after having been hit in the head by a golf ball has been awarded just under €275,000 damages in the High Court.
Mr Justice Michael Peart made the award to Mary Brennan against her fellow Old Conna Golf Club member Patrick Trundle in a reserved judgment in which he criticised attempts by the defendant's insurers to establish that Ms Brennan had exaggerated her complaints.
"I have taken a strong view against that proposition and it is only fair to say that there was no question about her trying to exaggerate her symptoms," the judge said. The court had heard that Ms Brennan (56) of The Park, Cabinteely, Co Dublin, was standing on the balcony of Old Conna Golf Club, Bray, Co Wicklow, in April 2009 when she was hit on the head. She suffered a stroke some days later.
She had sued Patrick Trundle, a fellow member of the Old Conna Golf Club, which she had joined only three weeks before the incident. The judge said the award was against Mr Trundle only, since a claim against the golf club had all but been abandoned.
He awarded Ms Brennan a total of €274,685, which included €80,000 for past pain and suffering and €110,000 for future pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment.
He also allowed €25,000 for future medical treatment costs and said his overall award included €59,685, which had already been paid out under Ms Brennan's VHI policy and would have to be repaid to the health insurer.
Barrister Niall Beirne, SC, who appeared with Tracy Ennis Faherty for Ms Brennan, asked that the matter be put back for mention on 8 October next to allow both parties full consideration of the judgment.
The judge said it was safe to say that anyone standing on the veranda of their golf club chatting to friends did not expect to be struck by a golf ball by somebody playing a nine iron to the 18th green.
"But these things happen when things go wrong on the golf course, as Ms Brennan now knows. She received a severe blow to the head from a golf ball and fell to the ground," the judge said.
Ms Brennan's husband Phillip had been playing with Trundle in a four-ball. No-one had seen the ball heading towards the clubhouse and therefore nobody had shouted the customary "fore" warning.
"Mr Trundle's ball clearly hit the plaintiff's head with great force given the serious injury she has suffered, the effects of which remain with her to this day," the judge said.
"It felt like her head had been split in two."
Mr Trundle had believed he had made good contact with the ball and had made a good shot. He was wrong and, instead of travelling towards the green, the ball had travelled towards the clubhouse.
The judge said a hit golf ball was a dangerous missile travelling at considerable speed and it would, as a matter of probability if not inevitability, cause injury if it hit a person on the head. In circumstances where Mr Trundle did not know where his ball had gone it ought to have occurred to him in the seconds he had to react that it may have travelled towards the clubhouse, which was well within the range of a nine iron. It was not unforeseeable and he had a duty of care to others.
Ms Brennan's vision was so badly affected following the blow that she would find it difficult to drive and carry out her normal day-to-day activities. She also had walking difficulties.
Mr Trundle's insurers had employed a detective agency to covertly film her as she walked her dog and relied on this evidence in court to suggest she was exaggerating her difficulties.