Judge rules against Hamilton couple who sued over errant golf balls

2012-11-14T06:00:00Z 2012-11-14T12:54:14Z Judge rules against Hamilton couple who sued over errant golf ballsBy PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic missoulian.com
November 14, 2012 6:00 am  • 

HAMILTON – In a real life case of buyer beware, a Ravalli County district judge has ruled that a couple who bought a house along the 18th hole of a Hamilton course should have known their yard might be littered with golf balls.

Robert and Katherine Brady sued the Hamilton Golf Club and Ravalli County in 2011 alleging trespass, nuisance and breach of duty after discovering that close to 1,300 golf balls landed on their yard during the course of a season.

But District Judge James Haynes believes that shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the former general contractor and former real estate agent, both of whom are former golfers.

“Each of these persons knew or easily should have seen of the mis-location of the footprint of the Bradys’ home before they purchased the home next to the 18th fairway,” Haynes ruled. “Mr. and Mrs. Brady had – and failed to fulfill – their independent duty to see what was plainly apparent before purchasing this piece of real estate.”

Haynes said both parties agreed in court proceedings that golf balls had been raining down on the property since the 18th hole was opened in 1979.

At that time, the property was a sheep pasture owned by Willard Bullock. He apparently reacted angrily when people tried to cross the fence to retrieve the errant balls and went as far as to put up both electrified and concertina wire to keep golfers out.

But Bullock apparently didn’t mind the fact that the balls came his way. People testified that either he or his children collected the balls and sold them back over the fence to golfers.

When the property was sold and subdivided, the county didn’t require to developer to take measures to stop the golf balls from coming onto the property.

***

The home the Bradys purchased was a spec house that was ultimately sold to them after the bank had taken possession of it. It had never been occupied until the Bradys moved in, said court records.

The Bradys built a 6-foot-tall cedar fence and then topped it with a 14-foot-high net in an attempt to keep the balls at bay.

In their lawsuit, the Bradys contended that it wasn’t necessary for them to prove that golfers intended to hit balls aimed at their property. Instead, they said the case centered on the golf course knowing, with “substantial certainty,” that golf balls would land on the Brady property with the configuration of the 18th hole.

The golf course focused its position on the individual golfer.

It said no golfer would intentionally hit a ball onto the Bradys’ property because they would suffer a two-stroke penalty, which would cause “strife and self-loathing” to the golfer.

Haynes ruled the golf course had a prescriptive easement to the property since balls had been landing there for more than five years without a challenge.

Haynes dismissed the Bradys’ nuisance claim and denied their motion for a partial summary judgment on the trespass issue. He granted the golf course’s motion for summary judgment on the issues of lack of trespass and existence of a prescriptive easement.

“Nothing in this opinion addresses or affects the liability of any individual golfer who negligently or intentionally causes injury to persons or property as a result of striking a golf ball,” Haynes wrote. “Nor does this opinion grant any authority for persons to enter Bradys’ property to retrieve golf balls. This opinion simply holds that members and users of the HGC’s 18th tee, rough, and hole commit no trespass when errant golf balls enter into Brady’s property.”

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at 363-3300 or at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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(11) Comments

  1. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - November 15, 2012 8:50 am
    I believe what people,including the judge, are missing is that this guy's property is being littered with foreign objects that could concieveably injure a person if that person was hit in the head. For the sake of argument, what if the golf course was an archery range? Would it be OK for errant arrows to be raining down on his property?
  2. sallymander
    Report Abuse
    sallymander - November 14, 2012 4:23 pm
    Reminds me of when subdivisions spread into agricultural land then the new residents complain about the smell of manure.

    Not me, to me manure smells like money.
  3. MobyMike
    Report Abuse
    MobyMike - November 14, 2012 2:11 pm
    Ummm speaking of stupid... What difference does it make where they came from? Your comment alone proves stupid people can come from montana too.
  4. downthemiddle
    Report Abuse
    downthemiddle - November 14, 2012 12:32 pm
    I'm sure that if they ask the local High School Golf Team to come pick up balls once a week, they'd have some volunteers....
  5. Hakon Montag
    Report Abuse
    Hakon Montag - November 14, 2012 10:47 am
    ...and your response simple solidifies the public refussal to "take responsibility" for their actions or inactions.

    A return to common sense would be the appropriate thing here. There should have not been a lawyer in town who would have bothered taking the case and presenting it.

    Having a house next to a fairway or at the "hole" on a golf course what do you expect? Should not have even been taken to court.
  6. Born Here
    Report Abuse
    Born Here - November 14, 2012 10:26 am
    And they moved here from, where ??? Probably voted for Obama too--
  7. Watching
    Report Abuse
    Watching - November 14, 2012 10:08 am
    Why is this an example of waste by the state legal system? The Bradys filed a lawsuit and the judge quite efficiently dismissed it. Where's the problem montanaduck? And as for having "a little more sense than this" forget it. All this nonsense about people taking responsibility for themselves is a pipe dream.
  8. listen
    Report Abuse
    listen - November 14, 2012 9:25 am
    The Bradys haven't sued over real important things like questions of law and violation of codes by government. That when they'll be branded "vexatious litigants", their property seized to pay the government lawyers and then they won't have a problem with golf balls. Any questions on how to do it? Just contact the Granite County Commissioners. They're pros at it...with the help of MACo.

  9. Texas Susie
    Report Abuse
    Texas Susie - November 14, 2012 9:16 am
    In order to keep the golf balls off their property, they should MOVE! The golf course was there first. Oh, maybe they can stand in their back yard and if a golf ball is hit and it comes their way they can order the golf ball to stay off their property. They seem to have nothing else to do.

    Reminds me of people who bought a house near a veterinary clinic/hospital-- which had been at that location for years-- and complained of the noise coming from the vet's. No, it wasn't in Missoula-- just goes to show you that stupid people can live anywhere.
  10. swimwfishes
    Report Abuse
    swimwfishes - November 14, 2012 9:11 am
    At one point in time I lived on the first hole of the King Ranch Golf course. We lived in the house and sold it 2 years after we moved in. Yes, balls would hit the house and people would hit them out of my yard. At that time King Ranch did not allow fences. We were required to keep our lawn a certain length and cut it preferrably on Sundays and Thursdays. If you buy a house on a golf course expect a certain amount of trouble. Golfers standing in your yard saying "geez, breakfast smells good". and we found many beer bottles, candy wrappers, etc that I guess people assumed we'd just throw out for them. If you don't like living on a golf course MOVE..
  11. montanaduck
    Report Abuse
    montanaduck - November 14, 2012 8:18 am
    The fact that these morons took this to court is yet another example of a waste of money and time by our state legal system, not to mention the homeowners. I honestly could not dream up a more ridiculous case. Come on people, we all have to have a little more sense than this. That said, happy to see the homeowner lose, hope they paid a ton in legal fees to for their stupidity.
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