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Schlenger v. Weinberg

Decided: May 19, 1930.


For the appellant, Feld & Weiss and Ward & McGinnis.

For Weinberg and Blum, Elizabeth Blume.

For Florham Golf Links, Incorporated, Collins & Corbin (Edward A. Markley and Howard F. McIntyre, on the brief).


The opinion of the court was delivered by

CASE, J. While on the course owned by defendant Florham Golf Links, Incorporated, the plaintiff was struck and injured by a golf ball said to have been driven by an unnamed "member" of the "club." He was in the presence of defendant Jacob Weinberg. Defendant Samuel Blume, impleaded as Joseph Blum, was the president of the corporate owner. It does not clearly appear what precise relationship the "club" bore to the corporate defendant, nor what constituted "membership." The plaintiff's contention is that he was an invitee on the premises and that he was,

at the instance of the defendants, taken, without warning, to a place of danger with resulting injury. At the close of plaintiff's case the trial court nonsuited as to all three defendants. Plaintiff appeals therefrom.

The evidence does not connect the corporate defendant with the transaction. Such testimony as bore thereon was admitted only as against one or both of the individual defendants. Mere ownership of a golf course does not impute liability for an injury suffered by another from a golf ball driven by a player. The nonsuit as to Florham Golf Links, Incorporated, was obviously correct.

Plaintiff's brother-in-law, Samuel Geldizer, testified that on an earlier occasion Weinberg had asked him to "come out to see their golf links, and I said I would come some Sunday if I get some friends," and that Weinberg added, "Well, you can bring your brother along with you, Mr. Schlenger;" that following this the witness, with his wife, Schlenger and Schlenger's wife, went to the grounds and asked for Weinberg, who presently appeared and who, at the suggestion of defendant Blume, undertook to "show us the grounds," Blume remarking that "if you look at the place you will surely sign up as a member to-day;" and that, having gotten on the links, Schlenger was hit by a driven golf ball. This testimony is in parts corroborated by the plaintiff, Mrs. Geldizer and Mrs. Schenger.

Plaintiff relies upon Phillips v. Library Co., 55 N.J.L. 307, as the leading case on the character of liability that he charges against the defendants in the instant case. Assuming, but not holding, that the plaintiff was an invitee rather than a licensee and that the duty of the individual defendants was the same as though they had been owners, the applicable rule as stated in the cited case is that "an owner of lands who by invitation, express or implied, induces persons to come upon his premises is under a duty to exercise ordinary care to render the premises reasonably safe for such purposes, or at least to abstain from any act that will make the entry upon or use of the premises dangerous." The defendants are not charged with the causative act of injury. Who the driver

of the ball was we are not told; but he was not either of the defendants nor, so far as appears, was he the servant or agent of either of them. The plaintiff's right of action against the person who inflicted the injury is not involved. The contention in plaintiff's brief is: "Plaintiff had no knowledge of the dangerous situation in which defendants placed him. It was negligence to so place him or to fail to warn him or to warn the golf player who injured him."

The plaintiff was there to "see the golf links." There was no invitation other than that. It can scarcely be argued that golf links should be kept free of driven golf balls. It follows that a person who enters upon the links is necessarily subject to whatever danger that fact entails. Nor is it ordinarily practicable to see a set of links without going upon them. Nevertheless, a golf course is not usually considered a dangerous place, nor the playing of golf a hazardous undertaking. It is a matter of common knowledge that players are expected not to drive their balls without giving warning when within hitting distance of persons in the field of play, and that countless persons traverse golf courses the world over in reliance on that very general expectation. There is no testimony to sustain a finding that Weinberg was aware, or that there were circumstances to put him on notice, that anyone on the grounds would, without ...

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