Being hit without warning by an awful golf shot is a risk that golfers assume when they play, New York’s highest court ruled as it dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday.
The New York State Court of Appeals upheld lower courts' dismissal of a lawsuit against Dr. Anoop Kapoor, whose shanked October 2002 golf shot struck a friend, Dr. Azad Anand, in the left eye.
Anand was blinded in the eye and sued Kapoor for damages, alleging Kapoor was negligent for failing to warn of the shot at a course in Long Island's Suffolk County.
Kapoor and Anand had just played their second shots at the first hole and had separated to find their golf balls shortly before the incident happened. Kapoor's ball was in the rough to the left of the fairway, and Anand's ball was on the fairway about 15 to 20 feet away and perhaps 10 to 20 degrees ahead of perpendicular to Kapoor’s ball, according to lower-court documents.
Kapoor testified he thought Anand was behind him and that he didn’t see anyone between him and the hole when he took his third shot. Kapoor unintentionally sliced the shot, striking Anand as Anand – standing where his golf ball was - was turning to find Kapoor, according to court documents.
Kapoor did not yell "fore" – a customary warning in golf - before the shot, though he claimed he yelled when he saw the ball heading toward Anand. Anand and a witness claimed they never heard a warning, according to court documents.
The Nassau County Supreme Court dismissed Anand’s lawsuit in 2007, ruling that no golfer was "in the foreseeable zone of danger," that Anand had "left a place of safety behind [the] defendant to look for his ball" without accounting for Kapoor’s location, and that Anand assumed risk by playing the game. An appellate court upheld the ruling last year.
The State Court of Appeals, citing a previous case, ruled Tuesday that sports participants consent to certain risks that "are inherent in and arise out of the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation."
"Here, Kapoor's failure to warn of his intent to strike the ball did not amount to intentional or reckless conduct, and did not unreasonably increase the risks inherent in golf to which Anand consented," the court ruled. "Rather, the manner in which Anand was injured - being hit without warning by a 'shanked' shot while one searches for one's own ball - reflects a commonly appreciated risk of golf."
Anand's attorney told the Times Union of Albany last month that the neuroradiologist has been unable to work full-time since the incident and therefore has lost out on millions of dollars in income.