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By: Rob Harris

Whether Integrity Golf Company, LLC will be deserving of its name may depend on the outcome of a lawsuit filed against it by the owners of Tennessee’s Country Club of Bristol.

Interity assumed the management of the club in July 2015, announcing its arrival with a press release declaring:

Integrity Golf Company, one of the leading golf course operators in the world, is pleased to announce the company is now overseeing golf operations at Country Club of Bristol here in northeastern Tennessee.

The long-term lease agreement, effective July 1, helps broaden Integrity Golf’s footprint in Tennessee and represents a new era for this historic property that dates to 1894. Earlier in the week, the club was acquired by Bristol Preservation LLC, a local TriCities Tennessee group controlled by well-known local businessmen Mitch Walters and Roscoe Bowman. Longtime real estate professional Tim Carter also is part of Bristol Preservation LLC.

“The whole idea behind this effort is to preserve this golf course and keep Tennessee’s oldest club alive,” says Walters, whose Friendship Family of Dealerships is one of the leading automotive companies in the Southeast. “We didn’t want it closed and turned into a major development because you can never build it back once that happens. Integrity Golf gives us the opportunity to do that.

Barely a year later, Integrity was gone, reported to have “abruptly walked out on the 10-year lease.”

The club owners have now filed suit against Integrity issuing a terse statement“While regrettable, this filing became necessary due to events and actions over which Bristol Preservation, LLC had no control, … We do not expect to make any further comments about the lawsuit at the present time.”

By: Rob Harris

The Virginia-Tennessee state border divides the city of Bristol into two distinct municipalities. For the past several months, Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee have each sported a golf course bearing the word “Olde” in its name.

The Olde Farm has been a presence in Bristol, Virginia since 1999.

The alleged “newcomer” is The Olde Tennessean, which has carried its name only since October of this year, when the operator hired to manage the club for its new owners, adopted the new name. The facility, however, has been around since 1894, and for the most recent several decades has been known as Bristol Country Club.

The Olde Farm, located less than six miles from The Olde Tennessean, is not happy with the course’s new name, claiming that it constitutes an unlawful trademark infringement.

The dispute has been channeled to the United States District Court via a complaint recently filed by The Olde Farm.

By: Rob Harris

Divorce may end a marriage, but memories often linger. So it is with John Daly’s ex-wife, Sherrie.

The former Mrs. Daly was arrested earlier this week, charged with aggravated assault, aggravated burglary and violating an order of protection.

Allegedly, she broke into a bedroom, occupied by a man and a woman. The woman and Ms. Daly apparently have restraining orders against one another. Ms. Daly is said to have attacked the man.

Her weapon? John is gone but not forgotten….. a golf club.

As reported,

“According to the Memphis Police Department, Daly broke into a man’s bedroom on Tuesday morning. The victim and a female witness woke up to find Daly was standing in his bedroom holding a golf club. The victim told police Daly charged at him with the club and began to strike him on his hands and forearms. He said was using his hands and forearms to prevent from being struck on his head with the club.

“The victim was able to get the club away from Daly and escort her outside through the front door. She fled the scene on foot.

“The witness in this case and Daly both have active restraining orders against each other.

“Daly was arrested on similar charges in September after being accused of sending angry text messages to a woman because they were seeing the same man.”

By: Rob Harris

By virtue of an opinion issued last week by Tennessee’s Court of Appeals, Kim Hardy will have the opportunity to convince a court that TPC Southwind–home to the FedEx St. Jude Classic–unlawfully forced her and other food servers and bartenders to share their bounty with non-tipped employees.

Ms. Hardy’s lawsuit, brought as a class action, also names as defendants PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, Inc. and PGA Tour, Inc., claiming that they are vicariously liable for the actions of TPC Southwind.

The legal issue for the court was whether the Tennessee Wage Regulation Act, under which Ms. Hardy sued, provides for a private right of action by an aggrieved party, or, alternatively, whether violations are subject only to enforcement by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

In 22+ pages of riveting statutory analysis, the Court of Appeals determined that Ms. Hardy is entitled to proceed with her claims.


By: Rob Harris

Green Giant trees “will grow from 3 to 5 feet per year and will eventually grow to 50 feet or more.” Skip laurel “grows 10 to 12 feet tall” and “creates a dense evergreen privacy screen.”

These botanical facts could be important for those of you considering purchasing a home abutting a golf course. If you look forward to enjoying the expanses of green fairways, be sure before you buy to read all the relevant land records. Otherwise, like Betty Stibler, one day you may find your view blocked by newly planted Green Giants and Skip Laurel.

Ms. Stibler so far has failed in her attempt to have the courts require her golf club neighbor to remove the obstructing trees it planted. This week, the Tennessee Court of Appeals held that the club’s rights to its property trump her desire to see the golf course.

After finding that the various subdivision restrictions did not preclude the club from planting the trees, the court turned to Ms. Stibler’s claim that the club “had created a nuisance by planting the trees obstructing Plaintiff’s view of the golf course.” Rejecting this claim, the court explained as follows:

“In the case now before us on appeal it is undisputed that Defendant planted the trees at issue on its own property and that the trees in no way encroach upon Plaintiff’s property. Further, it is undisputed that these trees have caused no physical damage to Plaintiff’s property. Plaintiff does allege economic damage resulting from her loss of the golf course view. The facts that Plaintiff previously had a view of persons golfing on Defendant’s property, that this view has been changed by the planting of the trees, and that Plaintiff is unhappy because she no longer has an unobstructed view of a portion of Defendant’s property are simply insufficient to give rise to a claim for nuisance. Plaintiff has directed us to nothing which would give her a protected legal right entitling her to a view of Defendant’s property.”

By: Rob Harris

As reported:

“A Knoxville teenager had his golf clubs stolen from his garage, and it was all caught on camera. The golf clubs meant a lot to the family because they belonged to the boy’s father who died from brain cancer last year.

“After 6 News aired the footage last week, the family says they got an outpouring of support from our viewers who helped identify the suspect. The night after the story aired, the man returned the clubs when the family wasn’t home.”

Happy ending notwithstanding, the victim and his family still seek to have the perpetrator prosecuted.  That may prove eminently do-able, since a suspect has been identified by those who have seen the videotape.

By: Rob Harris

The Tennesee Court of Appeals issued a decision last week that serves to remind litigants and their attorneys of the dangers of overreaching on legal arguments.

Tennessee has a statute that permits the prevailing party in tax disputes to recover their attorneys’ fees. As we all know, attorneys’ fees can be substantial.

Five Oaks Golf & Country Club was not pleased that the state assessed sales and use tax on initiation fees and members’ monthly dues. The club grudgingly paid the tax and filed a claim for refund in the amount of $208,581.00, plus interest.

Five Oaks made two arguments. First, the club asserted that, under Tennessee law, the initiation fees and monthly dues were exempt from sales tax. Second, the club argued that, even if subject to tax, the statute of limitations precluded the state from assessing taxes on sums received by the club between January through November 2004.

After the state filed a motion to dismiss the club’s arguments, Five Oaks conceded to the court that the exemption argument was not meritorious. The court, therefore, dismissed this claim, but thereafter ruled in favor of the club on the statute of limitations issue, resulting in a refund of $61,887.00 plus interest.

The club, proclaiming that it was a prevailing party, sought to recoup the attorneys’ fees it expended in pursuing its tax appeal.  Confronted with the fact that it effectively lost on its exemption argument, the club argued that, by “conceding” the argument, the court did not effectively rule against it on this issue.

Although the trial court agreed with Five Oaks, the Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that  ”each party won one issue. Each received substantial relief. Consequently, we find that there is no prevailing party and reverse the award of attorney fees to Five Oaks.”

By overreaching initially, including a claim that had no merit, the club lost the opportunity to have its attorneys’ fees paid by the state. Message to parties and their lawyers: throwing the kitchen sink at a dispute is not always wise.


By: Rob Harris

Among the most pernicious of disputes are those among owners of family owned businesses. The emotional entanglements between family members substantially complicate already thorny issues concerning business ownership and operation. A frequent and unfortunate byproduct of family fights is the loss of value to the business, negatively impacting all of the family members.

This phenomenon appears to have reared its ugly head in a dispute among the long time family owners of Tennessee’s Valley Brook Country Club. The club’s website recites the storied history of the club:

“Carl Drake opened Valleybrook’s doors in 1962, and from it a community was born…Valleybrook has been the proud host of nine PGA tournaments from the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Today we still play host to the City RedBud, one of the oldest tournaments in the area.”

Mr. Drake’s children ascended to ownership of the club, but disputes among them (which appear to be longstanding), have resulted in bitterly contested family litigation. The upshot is that the club is headed for the auction block, which reportedly will serve to liquidate the club’s assets with no regard for tax consequences or other ways to maximize value to the owners.

Careful business owners will contemplate the potential for disputes by including appropriate provisions in agreements that specify buy-sell arrangements designed to preserve shareholder value in the event of disputes. Also of substantial value in agreements is the inclusion of an appropriate dispute resolution provision, as mediation often is of special value to help address the emotional overtones of family owned business disputes. (For those interested, here’s an article I wrote a number of years ago regarding the “Passionate World of Business Divorce.”)

By: Rob Harris

On a sunny August day in 1930, Tom Landress arrived at the golf course and proceeded to play “in his accustomed manner at a place where many others were playing without injury.” While in the midst of his round, Mr. Landress “was suddenly and unexpectedly overcome from the force of the sun’s rays upon his head and body.”

As a result of the sunstroke, he died, leaving among his important papers two insurance policies that provided coverage in the event of accidental death. More precisely, his widow stood to recover if his death from sunstroke was deemed to be one of “external, violent and accidental means.”

An autopsy revealed that there was no bodily infirmity or disease that was a contributing cause.  Thus, his widow–more likely her attorney–claimed that his death, “resulting from voluntary exposure to the sun’s rays under normal conditions,” was “accidental” within the meaning of the policies, entitling her to the insurance proceeds and perhaps a nice contingency fee for her lawyer.

“Not so fast,” said the trial court; “slow down,” said the appeals court; “you’re not going anywhere,” said the United States Supreme Court. As the Supreme Court held, when one is discussing accidents, there is a difference between the RESULT and the EXTERNAL MEANS that bring about the result.

According to the Court, while Mr. Landress’ failure to complete his round and return home safely was certainly unexpected and “accidental,” the same could not be said for the cause of his death. Specifically, nothing “suggest[ed] that there was anything in the sun’s rays, the weather, or other circumstances external to the insured’s own body and opeating to produce the unanticipated injury, which was unknown or unforeseen by the insured.”

So, golfers, take comfort in knowing that, if you are to find your demise on the golf course by virtue of a lightning strike, an alligator attack or a runaway golf cart–all of which we have written about–your loved ones may be able to cash in on that accidental death policy you have tucked away in your safe deposit box.  As for the sun, I suggest a good hat and lots of water.


By: Rob Harris

A legal website for personal injury matters cautions motorcyclists to be on the lookout for the following road hazards:  rough roads; gravel on pavement; edge breaks; expansion joints; open bridge joints; animals; slick surfaces; standing water; snow and ice; railway tracks and crossings; and debris or objects in the road.

Had Susan Westerfield briefed herself on this parade of horribles before climbing onto her motorcycle,  she still would have been unprepared for what awaited her as she tooled down South Church Street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Passing by Indian Hills Golf Course, Westerfield had an unfortunate mouth first encounter with a golf ball that apparently was hooked from the 14th tee.

While Westerfield managed to survive more serious injury by staying on her bike, the direct hit knocked out several teeth.

The lawyers can have a field day debating whether this was a liability event or an “act of God” –or of the golf gods.

The golfer? Wayward shots happen to all of us, and shouting “fore” would not have prevented this contact.

The golf club, however, might have a problem. Even though the left side had trees to provide protection for the adjacent street traffic, the club’s general manager–apparently not briefed by attorneys–was reported to have told local media that golf balls sometimes hit cars in the area. Oops.

As for contributory negligence, forget about it. Ms. Westerfield was wearing a helmet.

Let’s be glad the injuries were not life threatening, and, remember, this is why insurance was invented.


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