Nov
24
2009
A Happy Gilmore Swing Can Cost You $225,000
By Stephanie Wei under General

At a bachelor party golf outing in Nova Scotia, Canada, Travis Hayter engaged in the usual shenanigans at those types of occasions — you know, chugging beers, swigging tequila, smoking marijuana and driving a golf cart recklessly.

But disaster hit on the 16th hole when he drove his first shot into the woods. Same with the next try. Understandably frustrated (and wasted), he did the rational thing and attempted his best Happy Gilmore impression. Shockingly, instead of launching it 300 yards down the middle, the ball struck a member of his party, who had moved ahead in the fairway. This wounded individual still attended the wedding but later sued for injuries to his wrist and hand that allegedly disabled him from his work.

The court ruled that Mr. Hayter’s foolhardy actions violated the standard of care to other golfers:

Having taken his tee shot, and then a provisional second shot, he was, or ought to have been, aware that the players ahead of him believed he was finished at the tee. He did not give any indication that he was taking a third shot — let alone a “Happy Gilmore” shot — until he was in the process of doing so. I am convinced that the “Happy Gilmore” shot would have been less controllable than a normal tee shot, both because it involved a run-up to the ball (rather than an aimed shot from a stationary position) and because the defendant had been drinking throughout the day…

The defendant’s conduct breached the standard of care required of a golfer playing on a course with other golfers. The defendant’s behaviour was not among the “natural risks” of golfing to which the plaintiff can be said to have consented.

The judge ordered Mr. Hayter to pay the plaintiff a whopping $225,000 in damages. FOR AN INJURED HAND. I’ll take a wild leap and say that the plaintiff was probably hammered, too, and perhaps he should have been more alert, especially given that Mr. Hayter’s probably a lousy golfer.

Here’s the lesson: Unless you’re a three-time major champion, like Padraig Harrington, think twice the next time you attempt a Happy Gilmore swing. At least in Canada.