RESULTS: $442,000 Premises Liablity Jury Verdict
COURT: Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court
DATE: January 12, 2023
ATTORNEYS: Eric K. Washburn and Kevin D. Sharp
Our client, who was recently retired and vacationing from Ohio, was visiting the Blackheath Golf Course at the Ford’s Colony Country Club in Williamsburg, VA. On the day of the incident, Ford’s Colony had mandated that golfers adhere to “cart path only” play with their golf carts.
Just after completing their first hole, our client placed her clubs in the golf cart and stepped around the cart to take her seat. As she planted her left leg on a grassy area adjacent to the paved cart path, her leg suddenly fell five feet into a small narrow depression or “sink hole” while her right leg remained at ground level. The force and high energy of the drop into the hidden hole caused a complex fracture to her right ankle.
Our client testified that grass beside the edge of the cart path camouflaged the existence of this five-foot hole which was barely wider than her thigh. Her husband and the other pair of fellow golfers noticed a faded white line painted on the grass around the perimeter of the area where she fell, but there were no stakes or other markers. Once she was carefully moved out of the deep hole, her husband placed his driver in the depression and took a picture showing the entire driver shaft disappeared into the sinkhole.
She was rushed to the emergency room where the fracture was stabilized and she underwent an open reduction with internal fixation of the ankle, back in Ohio, where she resided. Though she suffered some permanent impairments to the ankle, she was able to return to golfing and an active lifestyle as of the trial date.
Ford’s Colony argued that the golf course did not have notice of “this particular hole” despite the faded painted white line around the area of the hole. Ford’s Colony could not produce any employee to testify that they had previously fixed a “different” hole, and while they admitted that the white line was painted by an employee, the golf course was unable to produce the groundskeeper that had painted around the area.
One week before the trial, there was a $175,000 settlement offer from the defendants, which our client rejected. After the two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for our client in the amount of $442,000.00.