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Woman awarded $4.3 million in golf cart crash suit

Posted on Jun 05, 2007

San Anselmo woman awarded $4.3 million in golf cart crash suit A San Anselmo artist has won a $4.3 million verdict against the San Geronimo Golf Course over a 2003 golf cart crash that has all but ended her ability to work. Penina Meisels, a jewelry designer and widely published photographer, was awarded $2.5 million for pain and suffering, $1.6 million for lost earnings and $200,000 for medical expenses after a three-week jury trial. The case went to trial in San Francisco Superior Court after the golf course turned down Meisels' demand of $1.2 million and offered a $600,000 settlement, her attorneys said. "I'm very happy with the verdict," said Meisels, 56, who has photographed cookbooks for Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Joanne Weir. "It was very fair. The jury was terrific." John Graves, an attorney representing the former management company of the golf course, did not return a call for comment. At the time of the incident, the course was managed by Evergreen Alliance Golf Limited of Dallas; it has been run by American Golf Corp. of Santa Monica since 2005. The crash occurred Aug. 22, 2003, when Meisels, playing a round with friends, was driving a 4-foot-wide golf cart on a paved path near the 12th tee. The path was 8 feet wide, and two-way traffic was permitted by the Advertisement golf course. As Meisels was driving from the men's tee to the women's tee, another 4-foot-wide golf cart approached from the opposite direction. As Meisels edged her cart slightly to the left, one of her wheels hit a 1-foot drop-off that was obscured by leaves, according to plaintiff's attorneys. The cart tilted, ejecting Meisels and sending her down a 15-foot ravine that was hidden by bushes. Meisels said she landed on her back on a boulder, with her shoulder blade jutting from her underarm. "I had a rib that was rotated out of my spine," she said. "It was excruciating." Meisels has had surgery to repair the injury, but the lingering pain forced her to give up photography and curtailed a secondary career making clay jewelry, her attorneys said. She is only able to work about five hours a week. Meisels' attorneys obtained testimony from a golf course designer that it would have cost less than $2,000 to build barriers that might have prevented the crash. "This is yet another example of corporations acting irresponsibly and putting profits over people," said plaintiff's attorney Stephen Murphy. Bill Burney, the general manager of the golf course, said the former management company fixed the path shortly after the incident. "It's all different now," he said. "There's a creek that runs under there. That's pretty deep through there. There's railings up now, so that couldn't possibly happen."

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