For the past year or more our Firms Services were engaged by a plaintiff who received serious bodily injuries during a golfing event on a public golf course located in the Midwest. In this matter the plaintiff, a female golfer, was driving a "golf cart", steering it towards a paved cart path approach to a narrow bridge spanning a creek bed that was approximately 4-5 feet below the driving surface of this bridge. The golf cart, powered by a gasoline engine, rear tire engaged the bridge's 14" high wood bumper guard installed along each bridge edge. This encounter resulted with the driver and cart being bounced from one side of the narrow bridge to the other, coming to a sudden halt causing the driver to be ejected from her driver's seat and over the edge of the bridge landing in the creek bed below. As one could assume from this description of a full size female body being ejected approximately 10-12 feet to a rocky and uneven creek bed below, serious bodily injuries were sustained.
For those of you who are over 60 years of age and have played this game, numerous times, think back 50-60 years and recall the accepted rules of play to assure or prevent accidents accruing during play. Those accepted rules were simple and logical; don't swing a golf club close to anyone, make sure players in your group are out of the line of flight of your golf shot, be aware of golf balls ricocheting off trees or other objects and make sure players in front are out of the range of the golf shot you are about to hit. These together with several other similar safety and educate rules, dating back a few hundred years, limited injuries to players.
Now some 50-60 years later, we have more golf players and golf courses but there has been one added feature. This would be the electric or gasoline golf cart that can carry two players and their golf bags of clubs in lue of a "Caddy", once a pride of many foursomes who could afford one. At first, golf course superintendents and managers welcomed these new vehicles but soon it became clear that the grasses of the fairways and rough's were being burdened with rubber tires, ruts and lack of hard surface driving paths. Thus the introduction of "golf cart paths", which also resulted in the redesign of pedestrian bridge crossings, site drainage, curbing and other Health and Safety Design elements. If these added elements were not enough, along came the 1992 "Americans with Disabilities Act" (ADA) which also has had a great impact to the golfing experience, i.e. parking pathways to club houses and restrooms, both in the club house and on the golf course site itself. FYI, for the past few years, there has been recorded approximately 25,000 to 30,000 golf related accidents and/or injuries in the US alone.
A quick summary of our Firms Fact Findings resulted with the establishment that the defendants absence of safety features for this bridge crossing encompassed the narrow width of the structure, its lack of guard rails required by the International Building Code (IBC) and Pedestrian Bridge Industry Standards and no controlled approach paths entry and exit points. What became very evident was the existence of four other bridge structures within the play of this 18 hole golf course, 3 of which did have some type of guard rail system but 2 did not. This specific bridge's width was so narrow, allowing only an approximate 9 inches of clearance between the 14" guardrails with each side of a golf cart of standard size to pass without striking the edge of these wood bumpers on each bridge edge.
The other three bridges present, all had greater width clearances that allowed the golf cart route to be ample to pass and clear not only the guard rails but also any walking players using this bridge at the same time. Our final "fact finding" tasks revealed that this municipal government had five other public golf courses in operation with the last one being developed within the last five years, providing all bridges designed and constructed to meet regulations for the IBC 2006 requirement of a 42" high guard rail on each bridge edge. They also were in compliance to the current ADA regulations for site pathways, Handy Cap Restrooms, parking stalls and access ramps.
This matter was arbitrated resulting with the plaintiff's claim being honored and requiring the Municipality to correct all bridges for Health and Safety conditions.