Golf Ball Nuisance
A property owner who unreasonably interferes with a neighbour’s use and enjoyment of their land commits a “nuisance” rendering him liable for resulting damages. Can a landowner who purchases a property adjacent to a golf course recover compensation for interference with property use resulting from misdirected golf balls landing on his property?
The British Columbia Provincial Court recently considered a claim by landowners against the owner of an adjacent golf course for damages resulting from approximately 250 golf balls landing on their property during a golf season. The plaintiffs purchased their home and quarter acre property with fruit trees, flowers and other large trees as a retirement home but claimed that the golf balls landing on their property constituted a nuisance unreasonably interfering with their use and enjoyment of their land. The owner of the golf course denied liability on the basis that the golf course had been in existence before the home was constructed; a person who buys a home in or near a golf course should expect a few errant golf balls; and that, in any event, responsibility for those errant balls and any damage they may cause is that of the golfer and not the defendant golf course.
In describing the plaintiffs’ claim, the court stated:
“The Claimants and their neighbours have to deal with what can only be described as a barrage of errant golf balls landing on their properties. The Claimants are frustrated by the perceived lack of cooperation from the golf course to cure this problem.
The Claimants say that the Defendant’s position is that the golfer is responsible for an errant shot. That is all well and good, but then the Defendant, they say, will do little to assist in identifying the problem golfer. In fact, according to the Claimants, they are downright obstructionist, refusing to disclose to them any information at all. The homeowner, should he happen to be home when a golf ball strikes and damages his home, has the option of going onto the golf course. However, to do so is contrary to a sign that speaks of danger and warns him not to come on to the golf course. Once on the golf course, the only opportunity then is to speak to the miscreant golfer, potentially a dangerous act in itself.
The whole situation, according to the Claimants, is considerably exacerbated by on course sale of alcohol to players from a mobile cart. The concern is that consumption of such alcoholic beverages will neither improve a golfer’s aim or his disposition.”
In allowing the plaintiffs’ claim for damages, the court held that nuisance is exacerbated and established based on the frequency and seriousness of the interference. The court concluded:
“Not only did the Claimants have some 250 golf balls land on their property, several struck their home sufficiently hard to do damage. In one instance a skylight was broken, in another, a shutter damaged.
I agree with Defendant’s counsel when he says it is not unreasonable for a property owner located adjacent to a golf course to expect “some” golf balls might land on their property. Some, however, does not mean 250 golf balls.”
In a result, the court awarded the Plaintiffs damages in the amount of $4,000.00.
Whether or not a property owner’s use of his land constitutes an unreasonable interference with a neighbour’s use and enjoyment of their lands will depend upon the nature and extent of the interference. A golf course which permits misdirected golf balls to fall on neighbour’s properties may become liable in nuisance for resulting damages.