Saturday 17 March 2018

Golfer (59) who broke his ankle after 'somersaulting' off tee box loses €60,000 claim against Dublin club

A 59-year-old golfer, who broke his right ankle after “slipping and somersaulting” off a tee box has lost a €60,000 damages claim
A 59-year-old golfer, who broke his right ankle after “slipping and somersaulting” off a tee box has lost a €60,000 damages claim

Ray Managh

A 59-year-old golfer, who broke his right ankle after “slipping and somersaulting” off a tee box during a round of golf at Forrest Little, has lost a €60,000 damages claim against the Co Dublin golf club.

William “Billy” Russell told the Circuit Civil Court Thursday that he slipped on an allegedly defective astro turf covering on a railway sleeper used in a set of steps on the 16th tee.

Russell, now aged 62 of Belclare Park, Popintree, Dublin, told the court he had just hit his drive and was walking off the tee box when his right foot went sideways and he somersaulted down the steps, landing on his back beside his golf bag.

A former president and past captain of Beaumont Hospital Golf Society, Russell, a 20 handicap golfer, told Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, the incident happened on a wet day in May, 2014.  He had never been a member of any golf club.

He said he had been taken to Beaumont Hospital where x-rays revealed he had fractured his right ankle.  An open plaster slab had been fitted to his leg and for 10 weeks he had been unable to return to his work as a plumber at the hospital.  Due to boredom he had returned to the hospital after a week and had done light bookwork for several months.

Russell told barrister Shane English that he had been wearing a pair of Nike golf shoes on the day of his fall and they had been fitted with new “soft spikes” only a couple of weeks previously.

He agreed with Mr English, who appeared with Ciaran McIntyre of Hayes McGrath solicitors for Travelers Insurance Company, that the steps to the 16th tee was the seventh set of wooden astro turf-covered steps he had used on other tees that day.

He also agreed that prior to his fall he had climbed and descended astro turf-covered steps on many occasions on other golf courses throughout his life and accepted they were used on many golf courses around the country.

Forensic engineer Cathal Maguire told Mr English that astro turf covering was used in many sports, including golf, throughout the country and was a safe and very slip resistant surface in wet or dry conditions.

Jeff Scott, course supervisor at the Swords, Co Dublin club, which is close to Dublin Airport, told Mr English there was a programme of maintenance checks on tee boxes.  Last year there had been an estimated 30,000 rounds of golf played on the course without incident on any of the wooden-based astro turf-covered steps to tee boxes.

He said the 16th tee box had since been moved but only due to a re-design of the course for safety reasons as it used to be too close to the 15th green.

Judge Groarke said he could not find in favour of Mr Russell as the court had not been presented with any evidence of negligence on the part of the club.  He himself had been playing golf for more than 30 years and was aware that astro turf was in common usage on many courses.

“I have no doubt that the sleepers I see in photographs of the tee boxes are not in the same condition they were in on the day they were lifted off a lorry,” Judge Groarke said.

“While the sleepers probably have deteriorated to some degree I cannot see any evidence that this has happened on the top step of the 16th tee  which Mr Russell complains was defective.”

Dismissing Mr Russell’s claim and ordering costs against him, Judge Groarke said anyone participating in outside activities could not expect astro turf to be like a carpet and one had to be careful and keep a good eye on where they were going.

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