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Blinded by a Golf Ball: Contributory Negligence in North Carolina

Matt Richardson

The North Carolina Court of Appeals recently struck down a personal injury claim by a golfer in the case of Mosely v. Hendricks. The facts of the case might seem amusing, but the court’s decision demonstrates the difficulties of pursing a personal injury claim in a contributory negligence state like North Carolina.

According to the court’s opinion, the Plaintiff and his golfing buddies drank a substantial amount of moonshine and beer during a round of golf on a course in Wilson County. After their round ended, some of the men decided to go hit some balls on the driving range. The Plaintiff parked his golf cart in a parking lot near the range while his buddies went to off to hit balls. His cart was parked about 60-70 yards from the tee boxes. A mesh fence ran alongside the parking lot, but the Plaintiff parked beyond the fence’s protection. As he sat in the cart, he began texting his wife on his cell phone.

You can probably guess what happened. One golfer struck a ball and hit the Plaintiff in his eye, causing alleged blindness. The Plaintiff sued the other golfer.

Contributory Negligence Bars Recovery in North Carolina

The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that the injured golfer could not recover damages for his injuries. He was barred by the defense of contributory negligence. The court laid out the two-part standard for the defense in North Carolina:

  • a want of due care on the part of the plaintiff; and
  • a proximate connection between the plaintiff’s negligence and the injury

They court found that the golfer’s “lack of situational awareness — due at least in part to his intoxication and the distraction from his cell phone — constituted plaintiff’s failure to exercise ordinary care.”

It certainly didn’t help that the golfer was inebriated. Would the court’s decision have been different if he was sober?

When It’s Not Clear-Cut

As attorneys representing injured parties in North Carolina, we face the defense of contributory negligence on a daily basis. This is especially true in premises liability and car accident cases, where injured parties are accused by defense attorneys and insurance adjusters of failing to use ordinary care and causing their own injuries.

Claims of contributory negligence are sometimes far-fetched, but they can stop an injury claim dead in its tracks and should be taken seriously. If you or someone you know has suffered personal injury and are facing claims of contributory negligence by the other side, you should seek the help of an experienced North Carolina attorney immediately.

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