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Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Golfer stepped in sinkhole, fractured ankle — $442,000 verdict

Golfer stepped in sinkhole, fractured ankle — $442,000 verdict

Type of action: Premises liability

Injuries alleged: Right ankle fracture

Name of case: Miller v. Ford’s Colony Country Club, LLC

Court: Williamsburg/James City County Circuit Court

Case no.: CL21000909-00

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Holly B. Smith

Date resolved: 1/12/2023

Special damages: $110,000

Demand: $475,000

Offer: $150,000


Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $442,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Eric K. Washburn and Kevin D. Sharp, Virginia Beach

Description of case: The plaintiff, recently retired, was vacationing from Ohio, and she and her husband were visiting the Blackheath golf course at the Ford’s Colony Country Club in Williamsburg.


Ford’s Colony on this day mandated that golfers adhere to “cart path only” play with their golf carts. Just after completing their first hole, plaintiff placed her clubs in the golf cart and stepped around the cart to take her seat. As she planted her left leg on a grassy area adjacent the paved cart path, her leg suddenly fell five feet into a small narrow depression or “sinkhole” while her right leg remained at ground level.

The force and high energy of the drop into the hidden hole caused a complex fracture to her right ankle.

Plaintiff testified that grass beside the edge of the cart path camouflaged the existence of this five-foot hole which was barely wider than her thigh. Her husband and the other pair of fellow golfers noticed a faded white line painted on the grass around the perimeter of the area where she fell, but there were no stakes or other markers. Once she was carefully moved out of the deep hole, her husband placed his driver in the depression and took a picture showing the entire driver shaft disappearing into the sinkhole. Plaintiff was rushed to the emergency room where the fracture was stabilized and she underwent an open reduction with internal fixation of the ankle back in Ohio. Though she suffered some permanent impairments to the ankle, she was able to return to golfing and an active lifestyle as of the trial date.

Ford’s Colony argued that the golf course did not have notice of “this particular hole” despite the faded painted white line around the area of the hole. Ford’s Colony could not produce any employee to testify that they had previously fixed a “different” hole, and while they admitted that the white line was painted by an employee, the golf course was unable to produce the grounds keeper that had painted around the area.

After the two-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for plaintiff in the amount of $442,000.

Plaintiff’s counsel Eric Washburn provided case information.