City May Be Liable After Golf Ball Hits Child on Nearby City-Owned Walkway

In a recent case, one court considered whether a city could be held liable after a child was hit by a stray golf ball while he was on city-owned property. The golf course was owned by the city and managed by a private company. Next to the golf course, there were recreational areas, including a pedestrian walkway. The young plaintiff was struck in the head by a golf ball as his mother was pushing him in a stroller on the walkway.

GolferThe boy and the mother filed a claim against the city, alleging that the city failed to protect against a dangerous condition on public property by having a golf course next to a public walking area. According to the complaint, the boy was brought to the hospital and diagnosed with a brain injury. He allegedly suffered from cognitive delays, eye injuries, urinary dysfunction, significant pain, and emotional distress. The plaintiffs alleged that the city failed to protect against the known risk of golf balls hitting people outside the golf course by failing to put up adequate fences or other barriers and failing to adequately warn people of the risk.

The city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming it had immunity under the state’s laws. The trial court agreed and granted the city’s motion, finding it was entitled to immunity under a state statute. The law stated that a public entity is generally liable for an injury caused by a dangerous condition on its property; however, a public entity is not liable for an injury caused by the condition of a trail used for access to recreational areas that is not a public street or highway.

The state’s court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. The appellate court determined that the statute provided immunity for injuries caused by the dangerous condition of a trail itself, but it did not provide immunity for injuries caused by the dangerous condition of adjacent public properties, including the dangerous condition of a commercially operated public golf course that causes an injury on an adjacent trail. The court held that trail immunity did not cover a dangerous condition of a commercially operated, revenue-generating public golf course that causes injuries to pedestrians on an adjacent trail. Therefore, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment, allowing the claim to continue against the city.

Claims Against Public Entities

A governmental entity is immune from tort liability unless it is exempted under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act. Under the Act, there are many exceptions that allow plaintiffs to bring certain personal injury claims against governmental entities. For example, in many circumstances, a governmental entity is not immune for injuries or damages caused by the negligence of public employees while acting in the scope of their employment during the construction or maintenance of streets, alleys, bridges, and parking areas. On the other hand, the Act does not permit lawsuits for negligent “design.”

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm. At our firm, the goal is to always strive for excellence for the benefit of our clients. We believe in attention to detail, a close relationship with our clients, and a high level of respect in the legal profession. We believe in providing services to clients in order to maximize their recovery and help the client through what is often a complicated legal system. Contact our office at 505-889-FINE to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your claim and to determine whether you could benefit from our representation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Finds Lower Court Erred in Granting Summary Judgment to Fast Food Restaurant in Slip-and-Fall Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2017.

Court Finds that Comparative Negligence Does Not Apply in Crashworthiness Cases, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2017.