As the U.S. Open tees off Thursday, consider the funny thing about golf. It’s the only sport where the spectators have a greater risk of sustaining a serious injury than the players. Golfers risk back injuries. Some spectators, on the other hand, stand unprotected, just slightly to the side of someone who will be hitting a rock hard sphere at lightning speed. If you are going to the Open played at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., and meet Phil Mickelson because he comes up to apologize and check on your well-being, will you be able to recover for your injuries?
The obvious starting place to answer this question is the huge body of case law that addresses liability for spectators injured by a foul ball at a baseball game. In general, courts across the board have made it very difficult for those injured in this way to recover from the owner or operator of the stadium. Many have adopted the “baseball rule,” which generally provides that a baseball stadium owner or operator is not liable for a foul ball injury as long as it screens the most dangerous part of the stadium and provides screened seats to as many spectators as may reasonably be expected to request them.
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