Legal liability can strike unexpectedly and, in a case that is bound to cause concern amongst parents, a mother has been left facing a substantial compensation bill after her ten-year-old son accidentally hit a friend in the eye with a golf club.
To celebrate the boy's birthday, his parents had taken him and two school friends to an amusement park. The youngsters were playing crazy golf when the birthday boy, who was frustrated at his inability to hole a ball, took a wide backswing and inadvertently hit his friend in the face. The party guest, aged nine, was blinded in his left eye and legal proceedings were begun on his behalf.
The claim against the birthday boy's mother was dismissed by a judge on the basis that, although he was sometimes boisterous and required firm handling, her son was not a dangerous child. The mother, who was nearby when the accident happened, had asked the boys whether they had played crazy golf before and they had assured her that they had and knew what to do. They had all attended a crazy golf party before and she warned them to keep their distance whilst each player took their turn.
In upholding the party guest's appeal against that ruling, however, the High Court found that the mother had been negligent. She had been aware that her son was sometimes impetuous and could reasonably have been expected to give the boys a firm warning not to swing their clubs above a certain level. That was the bare minimum instruction that was required and the boy would not have swung his club as he did had he been told not to do so.
The owners of the amusement park were also found liable for the accident on the basis that the crazy golf course was aimed at children and there should have been a sign in place warning players against raising their clubs too high. Only after the accident was a risk assessment carried out, a notice put up explaining the rules of the game and metal putters replaced by rubber ones.
The amount of the injured boy's compensation remains to be assessed, but is bound to be a six-figure sum. How the damages bill is to be apportioned between the birthday boy's mother and the owners of the park will also be decided at a further hearing, unless final settlement terms can be agreed.