Golfer Johnny Shin was hit on the head by a tee shot of a fellow member of his threesome, Jack Ahn. At the time of the injury, Shin was about 35 feet away, although Ahn didn’t see him.

Shin filed a lawsuit against Ahn for negligence. Ahn asserted four legal defenses, including the sports assumption of risk defense.

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But injured Shin argued the assumption of sports risk defense shouldn’t apply in this situation because, he alleged, Ahn was negligent in failing to determine the location of the other golfers in his threesome.

If you were the judge would you rule the assumption of sports risk defense protects golfer Ahn from negligence liability to Shin?

The judge said no!

The assumption of sports risk defense has two components, the judge began. One is the primary assumption of risk for a party’s own conduct, he continued, such as a skier who breaks his leg.

But a secondary assumption of sports risk defense applies to another party’s breach of a duty of care, as occurred in this case, the judge explained.

“The secondary assumption of risk doctrine has been merged into the comparative negligence system,” he emphasized. However, Shin may have been partially negligent for failure to notify Ahn of his whereabouts just 35 feet away, the judge noted.

Although the assumption of sports risk defense can prevent liability for a stray golf ball that hits a spectator or a golfer on an adjacent hole, that defense does not prevent liability in this situation, the judge ruled. Golfer Ahn had a duty of care to ascertain the location of other members of his threesome, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2006 California Court of Appeals decision in Shin v. Ahn, 46 Cal.Rptr.3rd 271.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
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