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Can Brooks Koepka be held liable for hitting a spectator at the 2018 Ryder Cup?

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Have you ever hit a drive so hard off the tee that you hit an onlooker and caused their eye to explode? It’s gruesome and sounds farfetched, but that is exactly what happened last month during the 2018 Ryder Cup held at Le Golf National just outside Paris, France.

United States team golfer and 2017/2018 US Open champion, Brooks Koepka, hit his tee shot off the par-4 6th hole but the shot veered left landing in the gallery of spectators striking Corine Remande in the right eye. According to Remande, the impact fractured her right eye socket and caused “an explosion of the right eyeball, causing her to lose sight in that eye.

Remande plans to sue the organizers of the event for medical damages and possibly more. "Quite clearly, there is responsibility on the part of the organizers," Remande said in an interview given to Agence France-Presse. "Officials did not shout any warning as the player's ball went into the crowd." On the contrary, officials contest this to The Guardian. They report that there were “several shouts of ‘fore.’”

Dominic Piccirillo, founder of The Cody Group speculates there could be several defendants named in the law suit. “She’s probably going to sue the Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA),” Piccirillo said, “and since it was a match in Europe, she’ll probably sue the RA (the European counterpart to the PGA), Le Golf National and potentially Brooks Koepka as well.”

It’s probably not a major issue for the organizers though. Given the size of the organizations involved, their general liability insurance policies will likely have limits well above what can reasonably be awarded in Remande’s claim.

What if you were in Corine Remande’s shoes? Or Brooks Koepka’s? Injuries like this on the course are rare, but they do happen and they don’t have to be during a golf match. The same could apply to a neighborhood baseball or football game. People get injured and often look for compensation.

According to Piccirillo, if you accidentally injured someone like this, you could be covered under the liability section of your home owner’s insurance policy. Whether you injure a person, or you shank one out of bounds and break a window, those types of claims are covered under a home owner’s or renter’s policy.

Keep in mind though that these policies don’t cover intentional acts or gross negligence. If you intentionally attempt to harm someone or damage property, you won’t be covered by your homeowner’s policy. Likewise, there is a difference between negligence and gross negligence. Negligence is typically defined as reasonable care normally expected of an individual. Gross negligence is a blatant disregard for other individuals.

We won’t discuss whether or not your golf swing constitutes gross negligence.

Written by Kevin Nape

Dominic Piccirillo