Indiana Court Expands No Duty Doctrine In Sporting Events

In Pfenning v. Lineman et al., 2010 Ind. App. LEXIS 164, the Court of Appeals of Indiana, expanded the doctrine of no duty from one participant in a sporting event to another to include not just the players, coaches and those sitting on the bench to also include volunteers at the sporting event.

16 year old Cassie Pfenning was asked by her grandfather, Jerry Jones, to accompanying him to a golf tournament at which Mr. Jones had volunteered to drive a beverage cart. Mr. Jones ended up playing in the tournament so he left Cassie with his sister. His sister too decided to play in the tournament so she was left in the care of yet another person, Christie Edwards. Cassie drove the cart while Ms. Edwards severed beer to the golfers. While Cassie was on the 18th hole cart path, she was hit by an golf ball which was the result of an errant drive from the 17th tee. As a consequence, Cassie sustained serious personal injuries.

Cassie’s mother sought to recover on behalf of Cassie, under a number of different theories, against the golf course, the tournament sponsor and her grandfather. The trial court granted summary judgment as to all defendants. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court. In doing so, the Court of Appeals of Indiana wrote: “Although not a player herself, she clearly was ‘part of the sporting event. . . involved,’ and we hereby expand the language in Geiersbach to include sporting event volunteers such as Pfenning. Geiersbach 807 N.E.2d at 120.

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