Golf case dismissed; no damages awarded

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A golfer who hit a woman in the face with a golf ball while playing the first hole of the Sheraton Steamboat Resort Hotel Golf Course in 2000 was not negligent, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The ruling dismisses the civil case brought against golfer Drew Goranson, 22. It also means that Nancy Jane Hurr, who was claiming damages related to pain and suffering, wage loss, permanent physical impairment and mild traumatic brain injury, will not receive payment.

How much Hurr was claiming was not specified, but court documents show Hurr initially estimated damages at $500,000.

After three days of testimony, District Judge Michael O'Hara found that Goranson took "reasonable care" before hitting the golf ball and gave warning of his shot.

"I find that this was a reasonable, ordinary thing that happened that day that went horribly wrong when the ball was struck," O'Hara said.

Hurr was hit in the face with the ball May 4, 2000, when Goranson's shot went awry. Hurr and her companion, Chester Cynoski, were 80 to 100 yards away from Goranson.

The force of the impact fractured Hurr's right orbital bone and resulted in extensive mouth and face surgery, according to her complaint, which was filed April 26, 2002.

Hurr's attorney argued that Goranson was negligent because he did not warn Hurr of his shot. According to Colorado case law, a golfer has a duty to warn of an impending shot when someone is in the "zone of danger," unless the person knows the shot is coming.

One fact of the case, O'Hara said, was that Cynoski waved to Goranson, the "universal signal" for a golfer to play through and not wait on golfers in front. Another was that Goranson took time before hitting the ball, looking down the fairway several times and taking a practice swing.

Finally, Hurr and Cynoski had moved to the side of the fairway, a sign to Goranson that they knew a shot was coming, O'Hara said.

Hurr's attorney argued that Hurr was not aware that Goranson had been given the go-ahead to play through, but O'Hara said Goranson had "every reason to know or believe" that Hurr and Cynoski knew he was about to hit a ball.

Golf is not a "precise" game, as anyone who plays should know, O'Hara said. When a player is waved through, the risk of getting hit by a ball is greater.

The ruling may seem "harsh" because Hurr suffered significant injury, O'Hara said, but it followed case law. The decision could be appealed.

Goranson's attorney, John Vanderbloemen, said he was happy with the judge's ruling.

"I'm really pleased for Drew. He just graduated college two weeks ago. This accident happened four years ago, and now he can get on with his life," Vanderbloemen said. "I know he's really pleased that the court agreed that he didn't do anything wrong."

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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