Recently, a man from Wayne County filed a lawsuit against Twin Silos of Lavelette LLC after suffering an injury from an overturned golf cart.
In 2011, Gregory Farley spent the day at Twin Silos golf course playing golf with his friends. At some point Farley drove a golf cart down a hill, where the cart reached its highest possible speed and finally overturned. Farley ended up pinned under the cart and, he claims, was briefly unconscious. As a result of the accident, Farley claims that he suffered an injury to his elbow and to the left side of his face. Farley also alleges that the accident caused his shoulder to become dislocated and his rotator cuff torn, sending pain up his shoulder and arm.
Farley seeks a monetary award for his medical costs, pain and suffering, substantial annoyance, inconvenience, and aggravation. In his complaint, he argues that the golf course had a duty to customers like Farley to use reasonable care to maintain the premises. The golf course breached that duty by leaving a cable lying on the ground that golf course customers would have trouble seeing. It is unclear whether Farley is also seeking action against the maker or maintainer of the golf cart.
As West Virginia premise liability attorneys know, those who open their property up to paying customers have the strictest duty to make certain that the property is safe. Whereas most guests on someone’s property — such as a friend visiting — are considered licensees, people on the property for a business purpose, or because the property was opened to the public, are known as invitees. For licensees, the property owner has a duty to warn about conditions on the property that the owner knows are harmful. For invitees: property owners must warn of, or make safe, hazards that the property owner either knew about or should have known about. Not only are property owners bound by these duties, but property possessors are as well.
One issue that will likely come into play is how much Farley himself was responsible for the accident. West Virginia has a tort system in place known as “modified comparative negligence.” “Comparative negligence” typically refers to a situation where a plaintiff’s injury is caused by the defendant, but the plaintiff is also partially at fault. It replaced a system known as “contributory negligence,” where if the plaintiff was even slightly at fault, he or she could not collect. With comparative negligence, the plaintiff can still collect, just less than he or she would have if he or she were completely blameless. In West Virginia’s modified comparative negligence system, an injured plaintiff partially at fault can still collect, but only if the fault is less than 50%. Otherwise, he or she stands to get nothing. The golf course might try to argue that there was nothing wrong with the golf cart, and that the cable on the property would not have caused Farley to move down the hill at an excessive speed. Rather, Farley drove the cart much faster than he should have, causing it to overturn, whereas a reasonably prudent person would have driven slower. Who is more at fault will be up to the jury to decide.