Injured Golf Camper Can’t Sue PGA Simply Because An Instructor Was A PGA Member

By: Rob Harris

In summer 2013, a five year old girl–attending a summer YMCA golf camp–found herself on the receiving end of a golf club swung by another child. Suffering injuries including the loss of baby teeth–the child’s parents followed the personal injury playbook in such matters by suing anybody and everybody who arguably had any connection with the accident.

Among the defendants named was the PGA. In support of the claims against the PGA, the plaintiff alleged that a camp instructor “was a member, official, agent, servant, or independent contractor of the PGA, that the PGA had a duty to ensure Nallen would properly supervise the Golf Camp, and that the PGA was an independent contractor of the YMCA.”

The instructor, however, was not engaged by the camp through the auspices of the PGA. Rather, he was hired by the New Jersey Golf Foundation, Inc. and there was no evidence indicating that the YMCA had any formal affiliation with the New Jersey PGA. According to the appellate court in an opinion just released, the fact that the instructor “was a professional golfer who had competed in PGA events as a member of the PGA” was not enough to pin liability on the organization.

The plaintiff, however, seized upon certain helpful evidence in hopes of demonstrating that the PGA was acting with apparent authority. Apparently,, the camp brochure made use of the PGA logo and referenced the organization. The fact that the camp organizers opted to appropriate PGA references, however, didn’t cut it with the appellate court, which granted summary judgment in favor of the PGA. As the court explained,

“there was no evidence of voluntary conduct on the part of the PGA to create an appearance that the YMCA or Nallen had authority to act for the PGA. Indeed, there was no evidence the PGA was involved in any aspect of the planning or administration of the YMCA’s camp. There was no evidence the PGA was even aware of the use of its logo or name in the YMCA’s brochure prior to this lawsuit, let alone that it authorized its use for the YMCA’s marketing purposes….

“Moreover, the PGA did not hold Nallen out as its agent or employee. Indeed, there was no evidence the PGA was involved in any aspect of the planning or administration of the YMCA’s camp.”

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