Lawsuit: Woman diagnosed with ‘rare’ condition after she was hit with errant golf ball at Lowcountry club

Updated: Oct. 2, 2019 at 3:47 PM EDT
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SEABROOK ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - A woman has filed a lawsuit against the Seabrook Island Club after she claims she was hit by a golf ball in the head which has since caused her to be diagnosed with a rare syndrome known to cause issues with balance.

Andrea Bratich and her husband were leasing a vacation home on the island on July 14, 2018 which was adjacent to the 10th hole of the Ocean Winds golf course, according to the lawsuit.

Bratich and her children went to sit beside a pool at the house when “within minutes” a golf ball hit her right above her left ear, the suit stated.

“The golf ball that struck the plaintiff hit her with such force and trajectory that it could only have been driven by a golfer from the tee box of the 10th hole of the Ocean Winds Golf Course,” the suit states.

Bratich was diagnosed with a concussion but later states the symptoms worsened including “extreme hyperacusis” which means she could hear the sounds of her own breathing and voice to the extent where it drowned out the sounds of the outside world.

The lawsuit claims she saw several doctors and eventually went to Johns Hopkins in Maryland where she was diagnosed with Semi-Circular Canal Dehiscence Syndrome (SCDS).

According to the hospital, the condition is rare and is caused by “an abnormal thinness or incomplete closure of one of the bony canals in the inner ear.”

The lawsuit states the 10th hole is designed as a dogleg right, and the house where Bratich was staying sits along the right side of the fairway within range of a tee shot. According to the suit, there was no net, trees or shrubs which would have protected the house from other errant shots.

She is suing the Seabrook Island Club as well as the property owners for negligence as well as actual and punitive damages. The lawsuit was filed last week in Charleston County court.

“A driven golf ball can easily reach speeds in excess of 150mph and can cause serious injury or death. In South Carolina, golf courses have very limited or no liability to golfers for injuries from golf ball strikes. However, this case presents a very different situation.,” said Michael Gruenloh, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “My client was not on the golf course when she was hit in the head by a ball driven from the 10th hole tee of Ocean Winds. She was at the pool of the Seabrook vacation house that she and her family had rented for their vacation. Unlike a golfer, Ms. Bratich could not possibly have assumed any risk because she was not aware of the risk of being struck in the head by a golf ball as she sat by the pool.”

“Seabrook Island Club designed the 10th hole of Ocean Winds around the house where my client was hit. They chose to design a dog leg fairway that placed the house almost directly between the 10th hole tee boxes and green,” Gruenloh added. “They advised golfers that 75 yards could be cut off their tee shots by cutting the corner and flying the dog leg. Predictably, this caused golfers to hit golf balls dangerously close to and often directly at the house and pool where my client and her family were.”

“Now my client, a mother of young children, has a debilitating permanent condition because of the failure of three parties - all of whom knew that anyone staying at the property was at risk of being struck by a golf ball," Gruenloh said in a statement. “The owner and leasing agent certainly knew that golf balls frequently hit the property. They chose not to tell my client. They chose not to put up any barrier or netting or even landscaping which would have prevented this tragedy from occurring. The golf course could have taken any number of actions to protect Ms. Bratich from the dangerous condition they created. They chose not to do that and we’re going to hold them accountable.”

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