Who says frivolous lawsuits are relics of a bygone era? Well, as far as I know no one has, really. Lawsuits without merit are as much a part of the American Way as apple pie, baseball and greedy personal injury lawyers willing to take advantage and abuse the vagueness of tort law in order to try and make a quick buck. Now, I’m no lawyer, but if you ask me (which no one ever does), this lawsuit recently filed in Oregon on behalf of 15-year-old Alex Good certainly constitutes an egregious abuse of our country’s judicial system.
Good, a member of the Liberty High golf team, was practicing along with his teammates on the driving range at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Oregon, a town on the outskirts of suburban Portland. It began to rain, so employees of the course put up an awning around the tee boxes to shield the golfers. On the dreaded shot, Good’s ball shot straight up, striking a metal support post for the awning directly above him. The ball ricocheted directly back at him, hitting the teenager straight in his left eye. According to Good’s attorney, Terrance Lee Hogan, the boy has had multiple surgeries and may suffer with vision problems the rest of his life.
Due to this unpredictable sequence of events, Good is now suing Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club for negligence. The award being sought for the injuries he sustained? Three million big ones. Yep.
The news department at Oregon television station KATU asked an attorney not involved with the case, Geordie (LaForge) Duckler (I added the LaForge nickname, by the way, what kind of attorney would go by the nickname of a Star Trek character – that’s kooky talk!), and in this lawyer’s professional opinion, the prospects of Good being awarded such a princely sum is not good.
“As a person goes up to address the ball with their golf club and strike the ball, what are the known dangers around them? If they see a known and obvious danger and yet they go ahead and strike the ball anyway, then they’ve assumed the risk – what a lawyer would call an assumption of risk,” Duckler said. “Even if it’s a 15-year-old, we hold 15-year-olds to certain levels of responsibility.
“If this were the same facts, but the plaintiff was an experienced golfer in a tournament and knew all sorts of things about golf courses, and the risk of balls being hit, (there) probably would be no claim,” he said.
I understand Duckler’s point about youth playing a role in legitimacy of the lawsuit, but this wasn’t some kid picking up a club for the first time – he was a member of his high school’s golf team, so this wasn’t his first go-round on the course. And despite the fact I feel horrible for the kid – it has to suck that he will have to potentially deal with the consequence that transpired on that day for the rest of his life – the fact remains that he should have been aware of the risks inherent to hitting a golf ball. Further, if you drill the ball directly into something in close proximity – say, a tree, or in this case, a metal pole – there’s a pretty good chance it will come screaming right back at you. The permanent indentation in my shin due to a ball which ricocheted off a pine tree straight into my leg at about 100 miles per hour is a testament to that. It is also a testament to the fact that I am a total hack. But hey, at least I didn’t sue the course for negligence for my crappy golf game, though.