Golf Club Accident Results in €100,000 Compensation for Volunteer

At the High Court a volunteer who lost part of his left index finger as he was assisting with erecting timber cladding on club pro-shop been awarded €101,495 personal injury compensation.

A scratch golfer at the time of the accident, 48-year-old Mark McGroarty was helping a carpenter after being asked by club captain Nigel Britton to help out. The carpenter’s usual assistant was unavailable at the time that the accident took place on June 5, 2015.

As part of the project the qualified carpenter, and club member, Tony McKeon asked that Mr McGroarty hold a long plank of timber. This was balanced on a single milk crate while Mr McKeon proceeded to cut it with his circular electric saw. During the task Mr McKeon lost control of the circular saw and it collided with Mr McGroarty’s left hand.

Mr McGroarty took the legal action for compensation against the four trustees of the club, Diarmuid Kilcullen, Mimi Stack, Stephen McCormack and Christopher Stack, all care of Cobh Golf Club, and Mr McKeon, with an address at Lehenaghmore, Togher, Cork. In the action he alleged that they owed him a duty of care and their negligence resulted in the injury that he sustained.

The defendants refuted these allegations and counter claimed that, because he was a member of the club at the time of the accident, he could not take a legal action against other members of the golf club.  Additionally, Mr McKeon stated in his defence that Mr McGroarty was assisting him on the project voluntarily. after being asked to do so by the club captain. He also said that there contributory negligence  on behalf of Mr McGroarty.

However, Mr McGroarty stated that he was not a fully paid-up member of the golf club at the time of the accident. he said that this was due to his subscription not being paid in line with the club constitution so he was therefore entitled to recover damages against the defendants.

After reviewing the golf club’s constitution, Ms Justice Hyland said that her interpretation of it is that a member’s subscription must be paid by January 31 annually. Failing to do this will result in club membership being considered as terminated 0 she added that this is despite the practice of the club being to ignore this rule and to treat persons, including Mr McGroarty, as members even when the subscription had not been paid. It was also noted noted that Mr McGroarty had had paid only a small part of his subscription by January 31, 2015 and had entered club competitions and represented the club on teams playing interclub tournaments.

However, she said that the precedent set in an earlier legal action is that the rules of clubs cannot be taken to be altered by implication, including by the practice of a club, in circumstances where those rules represent a contract between all of the members. Along with this it is also the case that where the members commit their efforts and resources to the club on the basis of the rules as they exist at the time of someone joining.

She said that this situation is not changed by the club’s acceptance of a smaller payment by Mr McGroarty after the termination date. There was no proof that his membership had been reinstated following this payment or of a waiver being applied by the club of its requirements in relation to payment of the subscription. She found he was not a member of the club at the relevant date and is therefore entitled to recover damages against the defendants. As he was not a fully paid-up member at the time that the accident took place, Justice Niamh Hyland ruled that Mark McGroarty was entitled to take the legal action against Cobh Golf Club in Cork.

Mr McGroarty, with an address at Springfield Park Cobh, works for the Irish Naval Service. Following the incident where his extensor tendon of his middle finger was also severed he was taken to Cork University Hospital by air ambulance. After arriving at the hospital he underwent a surgical procedure to amputate his left index finger.

Due to the support afforded to Mr McGroarty by his employer, he has not suffered any loss of earnings and or incurred significant costs for counselling. This service was provided free of charge by the Navy.

The judge said the appropriate sum to compensate for his pain and suffering to date and into the future is €100,000. Along with a €1,495 claim for special damages the total amount of golf club injury compensation was €101,495.