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The Case Of The Burning Golf Trolley

The Case Of The Burning Golf Trolley

In these dark days of January, thoughts tend to drift longingly to sunnier climes, and in Olaf’s words “a drink in my hand, Prob'ly getting gorgeously tanned in summer”.  In Scotland, one particular appeal is those long summer evenings when a game of golf after hours becomes a prospect.  So a case about just such a setting grabbed my attention.  And when it also involves a claim under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), of which they are remarkably few in Scotland, it is likely to be seized upon by product liability practitioners north – and maybe south - of the border.

The case is useful to those involved in advising manufacturers of electrical goods, and on property damage caused by allegedly defective goods.  It involved Renfrew Golf Club against a supplier of golf trolleys called Motocaddy.  A club member left his golf trolley in the locker room overnight.  It caught fire and caused extensive damage to the club house, as well as financial losses for business interruption, lost green fees and loss of bar takings.  All in all, the claim was for a little over half a million pounds.  A sizeable sum in this context.

The golf club must have thought in the circumstances they had some prospect of success.  The trolley was marketed under Motocaddy’s name, although not manufactured by them.  Allegedly it did not comply with the relevant British Standard or the EU Machinery Directive.  The CE mark was applied apparently without any checking of safety by Motorcaddy. 

Despite this, the claim was dismissed.

The claim under the CPA would not succeed as the club house was not “of a description of property ordinarily intended for private use, occupation or consumption” (s.5(3)(a) CPA).  It was used for a material amount of economic and commercial activity (the clubhouse, bar and catering facilities, public hire of the lounge and dining areas and so on).  There were 700 members of the club.

The claimant’s common law claim was also dismissed as no duty of care could be established on the part of Motocaddy.  Motocaddy had not supplied the product to the owner, and had no control over the various events that led to the fire, including its maintenance, use, or storage.  The owner had changed the original battery and had left the trolley in the ‘on’ position.  For the same reasons, it would not be fair, just and reasonable (remember those inimitable words!) to impose a duty of care on Motocaddy.

Perhaps the judge had just had a bad round.  But at least we’ve got a few months to sort out the swing before the golfing calendar gets going.

joanna Fulton