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Court of Appeal

Court of Appeal hears case of spectator knocked unconscious from golf ball at tournament

In 2021, Colm Campbell, from Donegal Town, lost his High Court action over the accident at the Co Sligo Golf Club.

THE COURT OF Appeal (CoA) has agreed to allow a spectator who was knocked unconscious after being hit by a ball at a golf tournament to withdraw his appeal against a lower court’s dismissal of his damages claim.

In 2021, Colm Campbell, from Donegal Town, lost his High Court action over the accident at the Co Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point on 28 March 2016 when he was attending the West of Ireland Championship for amateur golfers.

He sued the club, the event organisers, the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) National Coaching Academy Ltd and the golfer Kevin Le Blanc, of Donabate, Dublin, whose shot allegedly struck the plaintiff.

The High Court’s decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, where it was argued that the claim should be remitted back to the lower court for a re-hearing.

The defendants all denied liability and opposed the appeal, which was argued before Mr Justice George Brimingham, the President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Maurice Collins and Ms Justice Mary Faherty in 2023.

It had reserved its decision.

In a written ruling published today, the CoA unanimously agreed to allow Campbell withdraw his appeal and not proceed to give its judgement.

Giving the CoA’s decision, Mr Justice Collins said that when it was preparing to rule on the appeal Campbell’s solicitors informed the court in a letter that all issues had been resolved between the parties, and that the plaintiff was “unconditionally withdrawing his appeal”.

The CoA was also asked not to deliver its judgement.

Mr Justice Collins said that “as a matter of principle” the CoA was entitled to proceed to judgement, despite the fact “the appeal had been settled, and the parties do not wish that judgement to be delivered”.

The judge also said that it was “unfortunate” that the parties were not in a position to agree a settlement at an earlier time, especially given as considerable judicial time, “an expensive resource” had been expended in the preparation of the judgement.

In the circumstance, and not without hesitation, the judge concluded that the CoA should not proceed to give judgement.

Significant weight had to be given to the agreed position of the parties who have now settled their dispute, “on whatever basis” the judge added.

In many cases where an appeal has been heard by the court the balance was likely to tilt in favour of the court proceedings to give judgement even if the parties request it not to do so, he said.

The particular circumstances of the case “just” about outweighed “the undoubted public” interest in the publication of the judgement, he said.

“Accordingly by consent I would permit Mr Campbell to withdraw his appeal” the Judge said who also vacated all cost orders made in the High Court, and made no order in relation to the legal costs of the appeal.” he said.


In his action, Campbell had claimed Le Blanc’s shot was errant and that he should have shouted “fore” before taking it.

The golfer, who at the time a top amateur, and the event organisers had argued Mr Campbell was not looking at the shot but was engaged in conversation.

The High Court dismissed his action saying he was not paying attention and was talking to friends when the ball was struck.

Campbell, in his action, said he was struck on the left side of his forehead and, as a result, he was in constant pain and his life had totally changed.

It was claimed against Le Blanc that his shot was errant and there was a fundamental obligation to shout “fore” because somebody could be in its way.

It was claimed against the Co Sligo Golf Club and the GUI there was a failure to take reasonable care for the safety of spectators.

The court heard Campbell had attended this particular event as a spectator over the years.

The claims were denied.

The High Court found, among other things, the situation on the ground of this championship competition was that, to a great extent, they were self-regulating and self-policing spectators.

All spectators were deemed to have been knowledgeable of the game of golf and would be reasonably expected to take care of their own safety, the High Court said.

Aodhan O Faolain