When driving your golf cart on a golf course, ordinary negligence is the standard of care and not the “reckless misconduct” standard applicable to recreational activities according to the Michigan Court of Appeals in Bertin v Mann, No.328885.
Kenneth Bertin and Douglass Mann were playing golf at the Farmington Hills Golf Club on May 22, 2013. When they reached the 17th hole, Bertin got out of the cart, walked to the green where his ball was lying. As he began to walk toward his ball, Mann drove the cart, first knocking him down, then running over his leg causing injury.
The parties disagreed on the applicable standard of care. Bertin argued it should be ordinary negligence while Mann argued it should be reckless misconduct under the case of Richie-Gamester because the parties were playing a game of golf, a recreational activity. The trial court agreed with Mann and the jury entered a verdict for him.
The Court of Appeals agreed with Bertin. It said that Richie doesn’t imply that where injury occurs during a recreational activity, the incident must be held to the reckless misconduct standard. “Indeed, we think it more likely that players participate with the expectation that no liability will arise unless a participant’s actions exceed the normal bounds of conduct associated with the activity.”
Bertin raised two theories for applying the ordinary negligence standard:
- A golf cart is a “motor vehicle” and thus is subject to the civil liability provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code.
- A golf cart is not an inherent component of the game of golf and thus doesn’t full under the “reckless misconduct” standard of care under
The court dismissed the motor vehicle argument but agreed with the argument that the risks associated with the using of a golf cart are not an inherent component of golf and thus not subject to the “reckless misconduct” standard of care.
The court applied the following reasoning:
1. The US Supreme Court in PGA Tour, Inc. v Martin ruled that walking wasn’t an essential part of golf and that using a golf cart wouldn’t change the nature of the game in the context of the American with Disabilities claim.
2. The US Golf Association’s Rules of Golf don’t refer to golf carts.
3. The Farmington Hills Golf Course doesn’t require the use of golf carts.
The Court of Appeals, holding that the trial court applied the wrong standard of care, vacated the jury’s verdict, reversed the trial court’s verdict and remanded the case for further proceedings.