Wednesday 16 January 2019

Golfer who broke ankle after tumbling off a tee box loses his €60k case

Golfer William Russell
Golfer William Russell

A golfer who broke his right ankle after "slipping and somersaulting" off a tee box at Forrest Little has lost a €60,000 damages claim against the Co Dublin club.

William Russell, who was 59 when the accident happened, told the Circuit Civil Court he slipped on allegedly defective artificial turf covering a railway sleeper used in a set of steps on the 16th tee.

Mr Russell, now aged 62, of Belclare Park, Poppintree, 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 captain of Beaumont Hospital Golf Society, Mr Russell, a 20-handicap player, told court president Mr Justice Raymond Groarke that the incident happened on a wet day in May 2014.

He was taken to Beaumont Hospital, where X-rays revealed he had fractured his right ankle.

An open plaster slab was put on his leg and for 10 weeks he was unable to return to his work as a plumber at the hospital.

After a week he went back because of boredom and did light bookwork for several months.


Mr Russell told barrister Shane English that he was wearing a pair of Nike golf shoes when he fell and they had been fitted with new "soft spikes".

He agreed with Mr English, who appeared with a solicitor for Travelers Insurance Company, that the steps to the 16th tee were the seventh such set he had used that day.

He also agreed that before his fall he had walked up and down steps covered with artificial turf on many occasions at other golf courses.

Forensic engineer Cathal Maguire told Mr English that artificial grass was used in many sports and was a safe and very slip-resistant surface in wet or dry conditions.

Jeff Scott, course supervisor at the Swords club, said there was a programme of maintenance checks on tee boxes.

Last year an estimated 30,000 rounds were played on the course without incident on any of the covered steps.

He said the 16th tee box had since been moved but only because of a redesign of the course for safety reasons.

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 club's part.

He himself had been playing golf for more than 30 years and was aware that artificial turf was commonly used on many courses.

"I have no doubt that the sleepers I see in photos 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."

Dismissing Mr Russell's claim and ordering costs against him, the judge said people taking part in outside activities could not expect artificial turf to be like a carpet.

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