Caddie sues over cart accident

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COEUR d'ALENE — A fractured skull, torn rotator cuff and cervical and lumbar damage are among the injuries professional caddie Alicia McFadden sustained in August 2015 as the result of a golf cart accident at Gozzer Ranch Golf and Lake Club.

The 39-year-old woman is claiming the club, its owner, Discovery Land Co., and cart driver David Harbour were negligent and she is seeking punitive damages.

Working as an independent contractor at the course's Bull Rush Tournament, McFadden was riding on the back of a cart driven by Harbour, a member and tournament participant. Nick Mickelson, then the head golf coach at Arizona State University and the brother of PGA golf great Phil Mickelson was also aboard.

According to McFadden's lawyer, Michael Verbillis, the men were inebriated and shirtless as Harbour drove the cart recklessly.

When the golf cart crashed, Verbillis said, the impact catapulted McFadden into the air before she landed on her head, causing permanent damage. Harbour and Mickelson walked away uninjured.

McFadden and Verbillis believe the accident was the result of Harbour's intoxication and Gozzer's failure to manage participants’ consumption of alcohol at the tournament.

"Gozzer was further negligent by hosting this atmosphere of unrestrained, unsupervised, and unmonitored service and consumption of alcoholic beverages, without taking into account the effects that the liquor would have on the guests and members participating in the golf tournament," Verbillis said.

Verbillis made a motion for summary judgment Tuesday claiming dram shop law — which applies to bars and taverns’ liability for the negligent acts of their drunk patrons — should be applied in this case.

Although McFadden was transported to the hospital for her injuries, police were never contacted about the matter, Verbillis said, because the accident happened on private property.

Gozzer's defense attorney, Gerald Kobluk, said Tuesday there is no evidence Harbour was intoxicated. Kobluk pointed to the fact that Harbour's blood-alcohol level was never checked and nobody knew how many drinks he consumed.

"(McFadden) admitted that she does not know how much Harbour had to drink," Kobluk said. "She claims he was drinking, but when asked about specifics, she said she was 90 percent sure he may have had two drinks, a margarita and a shot of tequila."

Each witness in the case testified there was no evidence Harbour was drunk, Kobluk told Judge Cynthia Meyer.

"I will assume for the purpose of this motion that he had some drinks. But it's a matter of if he was intoxicated," Kobluk said.

Verbillis scoffed at the notion that many of the golfers weren't drinking to get drunk. Alcohol was available at nine different spots during the three-day tournament, Verbillis said.

"If you don't ever watch, how would you know?" Verbillis said in court. "Why do people like to go to weddings with open bars? The atmosphere cannot be ignored in this case."

Verbillis said McFadden has yet to work since the accident, has had two surgeries and is up to $100,000 in medical bills.

"There was perhaps a party atmosphere as Mr. Verbillis indicated and perhaps these fellows were acting a bit like frat boys, even though they were perhaps long-in-tooth," Meyer said. "But the second element that must be proven can be overcome by showing there was an atmosphere of availability. But what we don't have in this case is evidence concerning obvious intoxication.

"As a matter of fact, the plaintiff conceded in briefing that we cannot provide evidence of obvious intoxication."

The trial for this case is set for Nov. 27.

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