Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Golf courses and country clubs often incorporate residential housing developments within or adjacent to the club borders. Many Rhode Island residents may desire to live along a golf course, as the easy access and social benefits of such an arrangement are desirable for golf enthusiasts and socialites alike. Houses located along an active golf course may be in the line of fire of errant golf balls, as golfers are not known to hit every shot on target. A Massachusetts court recently reversed a $5 million verdict that was awarded to a couple who had sued a golf course for nuisance based on the damage and distress caused by errant golf balls that struck the plaintiffs’ home.

According to a local news report discussing the recent appellate decision, the plaintiffs purchased a home adjacent to a Massachusetts golf course in 2017. The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the course in 2021, alleging that over 600 golf balls had struck their property since the purchase, causing property damage and emotional distress. The plaintiffs claimed that the nuisance caused by the errant balls restricted the use of their property, preventing their children from safely playing in the yard. The defendant argued that the plaintiffs had no claim, as they should have expected golf balls to hit their property based on their location. A trial was held on the plaintiffs’ claim in the spring of 2022, and the jury awarded them a total of $5 million from the defendant, most of which was awarded for the plaintiff’s claims of emotional distress.

The defendant appealed the verdict to the state supreme court, arguing that the trial judge allowed the jury to be improperly instructed on the issue of an easement that the golf course owned on the plaintiffs’ property. According to the high court decision, the easement required the plaintiffs’ allowance of “the reasonable and efficient operation of a golf course” adjacent to the property. Because the jury was not instructed to determine whether the amount of intrusion into the plaintiffs’ property was “reasonable,” the court ruled that the verdict must be reversed, and the case was remanded to the lower court for a new trial. The plaintiff’s claim still may succeed eventually, but the case must go back for a new trial before another jury if it is not settled beforehand.

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Freeways and interstates in Rhode Island can be some of the most dangerous places for auto vehicle accidents. The variable speeds and lane mergers that occur near onramps and offramps can increase the risk of a crash, as well as the damage caused in an accident. The Providence division of the Rhode Island Superior Court recently issued a bench ruling for a personal injury claim filed by a driver who was hurt in a crash on I-95 that was allegedly caused by the defendant who was attempting to merge onto the interstate.

According to the facts discussed in the judicial ruling, the plaintiff in the recently decided case was traveling northbound on Interstate 95 in Providence when he approached a slowdown on the right side of the interstate. The defendant was attempting to merge onto the freeway when he abruptly traveled across two lanes and into the lane that the plaintiff was driving in. The plaintiff avoided directly hitting the defendant by changing lanes, but the defendant’s vehicle did strike the side of the plaintiff’s car, causing property damage and minor injuries.

For a plaintiff to prevail in a negligence case (such as a motor vehicle accident) in Rhode Island, the plaintiff must demonstrate to the court that it is more likely than not that the defendant owed the plaintiff some duty of care, violated that duty, and the plaintiff was hurt as a proximate cause of the defendant’s violation of the duty. The Superior court applied this framework to the facts of this case and ruled that the defendant had a duty to avoid entering the plaintiff’s lane of travel. The defendant’s failure to honor this duty resulted in the collision, which was the cause of the injuries to the plaintiff. The court did determine that the plaintiff was traveling at an unsafe speed before the accident, and his damage award was reduced by 10% to account for his portion of fault.

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