In the Rough – Golf Course Defeats Claim of Golfer Who Tripped Over a “Clump” of Mowed Grass (NY)


German v. City of New York (New York)
(unreported trial court disposition)

A veteran golfer tripped and fell on a “clump” of wet grass on a golf course, suffering a significant leg injury.  He filed a negligence lawsuit against the golf course, claiming that it failed to properly maintained the course, failed to properly cut and remove or disburse cut grass at the location of the fall, failed to keep the course free from hazardous conditions, and failed to property train, supervise and coordinate its employees.  The golf course filed a motion for summary judgment based on the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.  The trial court (the Supreme Court of New York) granted the course’s motion.

On the day of the incident, the grass was very wet and golf carts were banned from the fairway.  Plaintiff completed the first 12 holes of the course, and by the time the plaintiff reached the 13th hole, the grass was in the process of being cut.  Plaintiff stepped out of the cart and began walking down the hill towards his ball when he tripped and fell on the clump of wet grass that purportedly was left on the fairway after the grass had been cut.

Plaintiff argued that “the accident was caused by a condition that was not inherent in the sports of golf, i.e., a slippery clump of matter grass created by the defendant’s decision to cut the grass while it was still wet, and that plaintiff was unaware of the condition prior to falling.”  Plaintiff further argued that “a clump of wet grass [was] not a normal condition that a golfer would expect to encounter while playing golf.”  The trial court disagreed.

Plaintiff was obviously aware that the grass was wet (he “admitted that the course was ‘saturated’, and ‘like a sponge'”), and he admitted that prior to teeing off on the 13th hole he “had to wait until they were done mowing the fairway in order to continue playing.”  Under those circumstances, and “given his level of experience” (plaintiff had played on the same course on “numerous occasions prior to the day of his accident”), plaintiff was “deemed to have accepted personal responsibility for any increased risk of injury posed by the condition of the course.”  Additionally, the court concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that any clumps of grass laid down by the mower “presented such an unusual or unique condition to golfers, especially one who had witnessed the mowing, to constitute either a trap or hidden danger for which the defendant may be held liable.”

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