Recently we have assisted a number of clients with claims involving situations that have occurred on golf courses as they relate to errant golf balls. The same basic principles apply to claims involving flying objects in the sports of tennis, baseball, softball, field hockey, lacrosse and hockey.  Furthermore, as the players move around the playing field they may unexpectedly travel into a spectator area, causing an injury.

Ball hits a player, car or other person or property

Whenever a player or spectator is struck by a flying ball or person when on the property that constitutes the playing field often the tenant of inherent risk is in play. The assumption is that because you are present at the location in order to play or watch a game, you knew (or should have known) that balls may be flying around and the potential for impact with a ball or player exists.  The “knowing” is the inherent risk.

If you are watching the game and a ball travels outside of the park and hits your car – you’re probably out of luck. However, if you are simply driving by an area where a game is being played, this is considered a different type of exposure which would result in a different outcome for all parties.

Balls leaving the premises & TRESPASS: 

If a ball occasionally lands off the property in a neighboring yard it is a “nuisance”.  If it happens regularly it is “trespass”. If a player goes into someone else's yard to retrieve the ball without the property owner’s permission, it is unquestionably trespass.    

It is well tested legally that when attending or participating in a sporting event, if a spectator is injured or property is damaged, the person affected should have recognized the potential inherent risk of that event.  The person or entity that is initiating the event or process is generally free from liability. This is NOT a “get out of jail free card” as limitations may still apply. The legal system is always attempting to reduce this exclusion, and insurance carriers and insureds routinely pay for these damages rather than defend the case.

From your friends at BEARCE Insurance.