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Spectator (65) hit in head by golf ball at tournament loses High Court action


Colm Campbell. Pic: Collins Courts

Colm Campbell. Pic: Collins Courts

Colm Campbell. Pic: Collins Courts

A spectator at a golf tournament who was hit on the head by a golf ball and knocked unconscious has lost his High Court action.

Colm Campbell had claimed golfer Kevin Le Blanc’s shot was errant and that he should have shouted “fore” before taking it.

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

Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon on Friday dismissed Mr Campbell's action saying he was not paying attention and was talking to friends.

Mr Campbell (65), who is from Donegal town, claimed as a result of the accident in which he was struck on the left side of his forehead, he is in constant pain and his life has totally changed.

He was attending the West of Ireland Championship for amateur golfers at County Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, Sligo.

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

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

Ms Justice O’Hanlon said she had not been able to find in favour of Mr Campbell in any respect.

The father of three now faces a substantial legal costs bill from the action, which was heard over six days, after costs were awarded against him.

The judge granted a stay on the order for 28 days in the event of an appeal.

The judge said it had to be kept in mind that it was an amateur sport although played at an elite amateur level and Mr Campbell was a recreational user “responsible to a huge extent, as matters played out, for his own safety.”

It would be “completely impractical and unreasonable” to have expected, with 40 seconds for Mr Le Blanc to play his shot, as suggested by the Campbell side, for the golfer to have walked up and clarified his line of vision and walked back before he hit the ball.

The preponderance of the evidence supported the contention of the defendants that no case has been actually made out against them.

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Mr Campbell had sued over the incident on March 28, 2016.

His side contended Mr Le Blanc, who was in the rough at the 11th green and 12th tee box, hit the ball and it overshot the green when it hit Mr Campbell on the head.

They submitted it was “an errant shot” 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.

There was also an alleged failure to give any warnings to those attending the competition that they ought not be located at the place where Mr Campbell suffered injury.

It was claimed against Mr Le Blanc that he failed to warn spectators including Mr Campbell of dangers of which he ought to have been aware.

All the claims were denied.

It was contended there was alleged contributory negligence on the part of Mr Campbell who was engaged in conversation and not looking at the golfer take the shot.

Ms Justice O’Hanlon said Mr LeBlanc’s evidence was “most impressive, understated but very honest and very credible.”

She said he was a highly experienced elite amateur golfer who knew his game.

He said had he been aware there were people who were left of the green and if his ball was heading towards them, he would have shouted “fore” but he was not aware there were people standing so close to the green.

The court noted he had had 40 seconds to hit the shot and on his own evidence he had to be very careful and hit the ball along an intended line which he and his caddy were happy with.

Referring to Mr Campbell’s evidence the judge said of particular note is that Mr Campbell was not paying attention at all when the incident occurred.

“He was not looking at play, he described people looking for a ball and that he was talking to his friends,” she said.

“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 accordingly,” she said.

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