Rinaldo v. McGovern

78 N.Y.2d 729, 579 N.Y.S.2d 626, 587 N.E.2d 264 (1991)



Since even the best professional golfers cannot avoid an occasional "hook" or "slice," it cannot be said that the risk of a mishit golf ball is a fully preventable occurrence. To the contrary, even with the utmost concentration and the tedious preparation that often accompanies a golfer's shot, there is no guarantee that the ball will be lofted onto the correct path. For that reason, the mere fact that a golf ball did not travel in the intended direction does not establish a viable negligence claim. To provide an actionable theory of liability, a person injured by a mishit golf ball must affirmatively show that the golfer failed to exercise due care by adducing proof, for example, that the golfer aimed so inaccurately as to unreasonably increase the risk of harm.


Plaintiff motorists were injured when defendant golfers struck a golf ball off the golf course and into plaintiffs' windshield. Plaintiffs brought an action for negligence and failure to warn. The trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, and the appellate court affirmed. On further appeal, the court also affirmed the trial court’s judgment.


Could defendant golfers, who accidentally struck the golf ball off the golf course onto an adjacent roadway, be held liable in negligence for the resulting injury?




A warning would not have been effective in preventing the accident, and there was no evidence that defendant golfers aimed so inaccurately as to unreasonably increase the risk of harm.

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