Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, August 2, 2018


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Summary Judgment for Golf Course Reversed In Action by Woman Stung by Yellowjackets


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The First District Court of Appeal yesterday reversed a summary judgment granted to a golf club that was sued by a woman who was attacked by a swarm of yellowjackets while playing golf, holding that there is a duty to inspect the property for nests in order protect patrons from harm.

Hospital nurse Carolyn Staats on July 8, 2013, incurred nearly 50 stings and, according to testimony, nearly died. She sued based on premises liability.

Napa Superior Court Judge Diane M. Price awarded summary judgment to defendant Vintner’s Golf Club, LLC in 2015 based on its “lack of knowledge” of “swarming yellow jackets or subterranean yellow jacket nests on the golf course fairway.”

Presiding Justice Jim Humes wrote for Div. One in declaring that Staats is entitled to a trial. He wrote:

“We hold that the duty of golf course operators to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition includes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect patrons from nests of yellow jackets on the premises. The measures a golf course operator must take to satisfy this duty may vary, and we do not address whether the Club breached its duty, or whether any such breach caused Staats’s injuries. Here, those questions involve unresolved issues of material fact that must be determined by the trier of fact in the first instance.”

He noted that yellowjackets are common in Northern California, and declared:

“[B]ecause we must assess whether the presence of nests on a golf course creates a general risk of foreseeable injury—i.e., the possibility that yellow jackets will swarm and attack a golfer—we find it of marginal importance that the Club claims it was unaware of any previous swarm or sting.”

The club argued that the duty Staats sought to impose on it would entail an “immense burden of inspecting its entire outdoor property—including every hole, crevice, tree, shrub, etc.—for every conceivable danger that might someday come into being under precise circumstances,” adding:

“It is difficult to imagine the limits of such a duty—it would extent to every type of insect, rodent, bird, and other natural creature that could someday resort to its base instinct and harm a patron.”

Humes responded:

“We are not convinced.”

He said the only issue before the court is keeping patrons safe from yellowjackets, not other dangers, and it’s up to the trier of fact to determine how extensive an inspection must be to constitute a reasonable one.

Justice Kathleen M. Banke wrote a brief concurring opinion.

The case is Staats v. Vintner’s Golf Club, LLC, A147928.


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