In Jones v. The Glenwood Golf Corporation, the Iowa Supreme Court explained that “a father–son golf outing ended badly when the son, driving a golf cart owned by the golf course, struck a bridge and the impact ejected the passenger (his father) who suffered severe injuries.” More specifically, according to the Court:
“On September 14, 2017, plaintiff Terry Jones went golfing with his son, Jeff Jones, at Glenwood Golf Course in Mills County. Glenwood Golf Corporation owns the golf course and the golf carts used by its patrons with its permission. Jeff was driving the cart with Terry in the passenger seat. As they crossed a bridge in the cart, the cart started veering to the left and when Jeff over-corrected, the cart’s left front tire became wedged into the steel structure of the bridge. The impact ejected Terry through an opening in the bridge’s safety-rail. Terry fell about twenty-five feet onto a creek bed below filled with concrete and steel reinforcement bar. Terry suffered life-threatening injuries and was airlifted by helicopter to the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He underwent multiple surgeries and spent months hospitalized and in a rehabilitation facility.”
The father settled claims against his son (covered by his homeowner’s liability insurance), including providing the son and the insurer a release and an agreement to indemnify them from any and all claims arising from the accident. The document specifically preserved any claims the father had against Glenwood Golf Course, which was the owner of the golf cart, and proceeded to file suit against the club.
Although the trial court determined that the father’s legal theory against the club was viable, the Iowa Supreme Court disagreed. As the Supreme Court held, under Iowa law, “for the damages caused by [the son’s] negligent driving, the driver and owner are considered one party.” The Court noted that “a majority of courts in other jurisdictions have also held that the release of the driver operates to extinguish claims against the owner notwithstanding the plaintiff’s express reservation of a right to sue in the settlement agreement.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court directed that the case against the golf club be dismissed.