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Spectator Sports and public safety

Spectator Sports and public safety

At the end of September the Ryder Cup took place in Paris. Aside from Europe’s success the news has been full of an incident which occurred on the first day of the competition. Corine Remande who had travelled from Egypt for the competition was hit in the face by a wayward tee shot from America’s Koepka. This drive veered into the gallery on the left of the green and struck Mrs Remande in the right eye. She sustained a fracture of the right eye-socket and an “explosion” of the eyeball. It has since been reported that she has loss the use of her affected eye.

Organisers from the Ryder Cup have said “Ball strikes are an occasional hazard for spectators but this kind of incident is extremely rare. We can confirm that 'fore' was shouted several times but also appreciate how hard it can be to know when and where every ball is struck if you are in the crowd.”

Mrs Remande is considering legal action against the organisers on the basis that course officials did not give adequate warnings. Her prospects of success are uncertain but what would be the likely outcome if the case was pursued in Scotland?

The case of Anthony Phee v James Gordon and Others was widely discussed at the time of reporting. Anthony Phee was hit by a stray ball at Niddry Castle Golf Club in West Lothian and lost his eye as a result.  James Gordon hit a shot from the 18th tee as Mr Phee was walking between holes.  Damages were agreed at £397,000.  Lord Brailsford at First Instance held that a golfer of Mr Gordon’s experience should have been aware of the risk his shot posed to Mr Phee but added that the club failed in its duty to provide proper signage. The decision was appealed to the Inner House who varied the decision and found the golf club 80% responsible with Mr Gordon 20% responsible. The Inner House took the view that the golf club’s failure to warn of this was of a different magnitude from that of Mr Gordon.

There was also a reported decision David McMahon v Gavin Dear. Mr McMahon was a ball spotter who was struck and injured by a ball played by the defender, a competitor. Similarly to the injuries sustained by the Ryder Cup spectator the Pursuer sustained a traumatic rupture of the eyeball and blindness in the injured eye. Mr McMahon was unsuccessful in his claim against the Defender on the basis that the competitor, Mr Dear, had played his shot in the ordinary course of play; the danger of being struck by a ball was a risk incidental to the competition which was accepted by the pursuer when undertaking the task of officiating; and the defender had not committed an error of judgment that a reasonable competitor being a reasonable man of the sporting world would not have made.

It is clear from the reported Scottish decisions that each case turns on its own facts. In my opinion it could not be said that the Mrs Remande accepted the risk of being struck by a ball whilst watching the sport. Further, my view is that Phee can be distinguished on the basis that the Pursuer in Phee was playing golf and therefore on the course. He was not a spectator standing by watching. I suspect that a Court in Scotland, hearing the facts we are aware of in this case may, on the balance of probabilities, find the organisers responsible for the injuries sustained by Mrs Remande. The organisers may however have a stateable defence if they can evidence their suggestion that shouts of “fore” were made and whether other warnings were made to spectators. There is however a question mark over what assistance signage would make to events. 

For further information, contact Stephanie Watson on 0131 297 5988 or Alternatively, contact the Personal Injury Team on 0800 731 8434 who will be pleased to assist further.

About the author

Stephanie Watson
Stephanie Watson

Stephanie Watson

Legal Director

Personal Injury

For more information, contact Stephanie Watson or any member of the Personal Injury team on +44 131 297 5988.