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United States District Court for the District of Maryland finds that Defendant Golf Course Managers are Entitled to Judgment as a Matter of Law on Plaintiff’s Negligence and Nuisance Claims

Mitchell v. WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC
No. 12-2036 (D. Md. Dec. 11, 2013)

by Wayne C. Heavener, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (

In Mitchell v. WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland held that defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law with respect to claims sounding in negligence and nuisance when a stray golf ball hit the plaintiff. Writing for the Court, Judge Richard D. Bennett held that defendant golf course managers were not liable in negligence for any alleged injury that occurred when an unknown golfer’s errant ball stuck the plaintiff in the nearby parking lot of her condominium building. Similarly, the stray golf balls were not a substantial and unreasonable disruption to the enjoyment of plaintiff’s property such that the plaintiff could recover under claims of nuisance. Therefore, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Doris Mitchell (“Plaintiff”) lived in a condominium near the Bay Hills Golf Club. The Bay Hills Golf Club had been in existence at the time the condominium was built, and was managed by WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC and Century Golf Partners Management, LP (collectively, “Defendants”). On May 8, 2011, Plaintiff was unloading a van in the parking lot of her condominium building when she was struck by a ball driven by an unknown golfer from the nearby golf course. Plaintiff sustained an injury to her leg that required hospital treatment. In the years prior to May 8, 2011, Plaintiff, and other residents of her condominium, had often complained to Defendants about “wild” shots from the golf course. Balls entered the parking lot on a weekly or daily basis, and sometimes broke windows or struck residents. Following the May 8 incident, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants, alleging claims of negligence and nuisance. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.

The Court granted Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to all counts. The Court held that the Defendants owed the Plaintiff no duty to protect her from the errant shot of the unknown golfer. The Court noted that, under Maryland law, there is no duty to control a third person’s conduct so as to prevent personal harm to another, absent some special relationship. The Court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the Defendants owed her a duty under RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 318, which pertains to the duty of a possessor of land to control the conduct of its licensees. The Court held that § 318 pertained only to a defendant’s duty to prevent third parties’ dangerous conduct, which is either intentional or reckless. In this case, the Court found that there was no evidence that the unknown golfer intentionally or recklessly hit the shot that struck Plaintiff. The Court stated that “[i]t is perhaps axiomatic that, in the sport of golf, the ball does not always go straight. This Court is unwilling to consider golfing itself to be a dangerous use of a golf course . . . .” Mitchell v. WSG Bay Hills IV, LLC, No. 12-2036, slip op. at 10–11 (D. Md. Dec. 11, 2013).

Similarly, the Court held that the golf balls that entered Plaintiff’s property did not constitute the type of substantial and unreasonable disruption to enjoyment of property necessary to sustain a nuisance cause of action. Importantly, Defendants’ golf course was operating in the same manner as when the Plaintiff began living in the nearby neighborhood. The Court stated that “[t]he fact that the condominium may have been struck several times in a week over the years is an annoyance appurtenant to the benefits of living next to a golf course.” Id. at 13. Therefore, the Court entered summary judgment in favor of Defendants.