The Tenczar family has lived near the fairway of the 15th hole on the golf course located at the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston, Mass. since 2017. At trial, they testified that 651 golf balls had hit the property since they moved in, breaking eight windows and damaging the house’s siding and a railing on the deck. A Plymouth Superior Court judge this past spring awarded the family $100,000 in property damage and $3.4 million in emotional distress. Fees and interest brought the total awarded to nearly $5 million. The Supreme Judicial Court on Dec. 20 reversed the decision, saying the superior court judge did not interpret documents creating the covenants and restrictions properly and did not provide correct instructions to the jury. The lawsuit was sent back to Plymouth Superior Court for a new trial.
Massachusetts’ high court tossed out a nearly $5 million jury verdict to a South Shore couple who said they suffered emotional harm from being bombarded by hundreds of errant golf balls from a neighboring country club, WCVB reported.
The Tenczar family has lived near the fairway of the 15th hole on the golf course located at the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston, Mass. since 2017.
At trial, they testified that 651 golf balls had hit the property since they moved in, breaking eight windows and damaging the house’s siding and a railing on the deck, WCVB reported.
This spring, a Plymouth Superior Court judge awarded the family $100,000 in property damage and $3.4 million in emotional distress. Fees and interest brought the total awarded to nearly $5 million, WCVB reported.
The court also entered an injunction forbidding operation of the course “in a manner that allows golf balls on the property.”
However, in a unanimous decision issued Dec. 20, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled the trial judge in the case did not interpret the documents creating the covenants and restrictions properly, WCVB reported.
“As the jury were not instructed accordingly and the failure to give the instruction was prejudicial, the verdict must be reversed and the injunction lifted,” Justice Scott L. Kafker wrote in the court’s decision. “…When read as a whole, the documents provide that the plaintiffs’ home was subject to an easement allowing for the ‘reasonable and efficient operation’ of a golf course in a ‘customary and usual manner.'”
The Supreme Judicial Court has sent the lawsuit back to Plymouth Superior Court, where a jury will again be asked to determine if the number of errant golf balls hitting the Tenczars’ home can be considered an unreasonable intrusion, WCVB reported.
“We cannot decide as a matter of law that the operation of the 15th hole and the number of errant shots hitting the plaintiffs’ home was reasonable,” the decision said. “…With golf, some errant shots, way off line, are inevitable, but a predictable pattern of errant shots that arise from unreasonable golf course operation is not. In the instant case, a properly instructed jury are required to resolve whether the operation of the 15th hole, including the number of errant shots hitting the plaintiffs’ home, was reasonable.”
Tenczar family attorney Robert Galvin told the Boston Globe on Dec. 20 that the decision was “disappointing” but that the couple would take the opportunity to present their concerns to a new jury.
According to the Supreme Judicial Court, the $3.4 million jury verdict for emotional distress came from the plaintiffs’ testimony, WCVB reported.
In its ruling, the court said that Erik Tenczar testified “to the mental exhaustion of worrying about golf ball strikes and his children’s safety, and his observations of his wife’s “hopeless[ness]” and his children’s fear, stress, and nervousness.”
“Athina Tenczar testified that golf ball strikes interrupted her work calls and woke up her children during naps, describing the golf balls as ‘scary’ and “chaotic,'” the ruling stated. “Her expectations of being able to use the outdoor space at her home were unfulfilled.”
The subdivision in Kingston where the plaintiffs live consists of homes on both sides of Country Club Way, which rings a golf course, WCVB reported. The subdivision developer, Indian Pond, built the golf course in 1999 and 2000.