I was playing golf this weekend and I may have hit a car with one of the my shots. On the 18th hole of Pelham Bay (NYC Municipal course), I hit a shot that went left toward the road that runs along the course. From my vantage point, it appeared that my shot was going at the fence, but below the fence line. When I arrived at the spot, there was a gentleman standing at the fence saying that his car had been hit by a golf ball. I told him to pull up to the clubhouse and I would meet him there to inspect the car and we could exchange information. His windshield was cracked and it certainly looked like it could have been from being hit by a golfball. The windshield definitely needed to be replaced.
The gentleman texted me about an hour later saying that the cost to replace his windshield would be $860 and he sent me a picture of the quote. He also told me that his car insurance company would not pay for the damage as it was not his fault and that I would need to cover the whole cost. I do not have any insurance, as I live in Manhattan and do not drive a car. I did some research and found that the typical price to replace a windshield for his make and model of car was about $300. I called the gentleman and told him that I wanted to do the right thing, and that while neither myself or my playing partners saw my ball strike his car and he did not produce my ball that supposedly hit his car, I was prepared to pay for half of the cost to replace the windshield based on the quotes I had received. I made this offer in good faith and as a fair way for both of us to move past this incident. So, my offer was $150 towards his windshield repair, and I provided him with 3 different quotes from reputable automotive shops in the area that were $300 or less. He ended up choosing another option that cost $400 and he is trying to stick me with the entire bill for repair.
Ultimately, I am still prepared to pay the gentleman $150 based on the assumption that what he has told me is correct. Assuming that he is correct, am I actually liable for the full cost to replace his windshield? Doesn't he assume some risk for driving down a road that is directly adjacent to the golf course? Does the golf course, which is a municipal course of NYC and located in a NYC public park, not have any liability in this situation?
1 Answer from Attorneys
You specifically and your group generally may be liable; however, proof has to be adduced to squarely place the negligence on your shoulders. I believe your offer is generous. In your heart, you know whether or not your ball hit the car. I believe doing the right thing will bring you more good karma than you bargained for. Ultimately, $300 is more than generous if he takes it. Offer it once; have the plaintiff put it in writing that he agrees to the sum even though you deny liability and no proof of involvement. Do not communicate again if he fails to respond to your offer and tell him to stop his phone calls. Dealing with liability on the part of the Golf Course is a whole different factor; you may come across some very interesting case law in New York State dealing with the specific facts through Google search. The City will deny liability until Kingdom come!