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Woman Sues Golf Course Following Yellow Jacket Attack

Woman Sues Golf Course Following Yellow Jacket Attack

Honey bees and wasps are beneficial insects. Most plants depend on bees and other bugs to pollinate to reproduce. However, these insects can also be a pest, and their stingers are quite painful. Property owners can be held liable if an insect attack happened on their premises. The recent case Staats v. Vintner’s Golf Club, LLC highlights the premises liability.


In July 2013, golfer Carolyn Staats was attacked by a swarm of yellow jacket wasps during a golf lesson at the Vintner’s Golf Club in Yountville, California. According to court documents, Staats was stung more than 50 times. She began to lose consciousness and was within 15 seconds from dying when paramedics gave her a shot that saved her life. Staats experienced welts, swelling, and redness throughout her entire body. She stayed the night in an intensive care unit and missed five weeks of work. She became extremely sensitive to yellow jacket stings and must now carry several epinephrine pens with her. She must also get three injections every month.

The Lawsuit

In September 2014, Staats filed a lawsuit against Vintner’s Golf Club claiming negligence and premises liability. Staats argued that the Club had a duty to safeguard patrons from dangerous yellow jacket nests by performing routine inspections and preventing their formation.

The golf course moved for summary judgment asserting that it had no prior knowledge of any dangerous yellow jacket nests on its property, and therefore, it owed no responsibility to protect patrons from insect attacks. During that time, the Club didn’t have a written policy for grounds inspection. However, it had hired a pest control company to perform monthly checks.

The Trial Court’s Decision

In October 2015, the trial court rejected Staat’s claim for damages and granted the motion for summary judgment on the basis that the Club did not have a duty to protect its patrons against the insect attack because of the lack of knowledge of yellow jacket nests on its premises.

The golf course did not deny that it owed Staats a duty to upkeep its premise in a reasonably safe condition but rather, it argued that the obligation is partial when the injury is caused by insects.

The California Court of Appeal’s Reversal

In August 2018, a three-judge court panel unanimously overturned the ruling, which held that the Club was responsible for the safety of its patrons. According to the appeals court ruling, those who occupy or own properties have a liability to exercise reasonable care for their patron’s safety. The appeals court argued that although there was no previous incident of yellow jacket attack, it is foreseeable that a yellow jacket nest on the property might pose a risk to patrons.

The judgment was reversed, and the case was returned to the lower court for further proceedings. Staats was awarded her costs on appeal.

Premises Liability

When a guest or tenant sustains an injury on another person’s property, the owner of the property may be legally responsible if it can be proved that his or her negligence led to the injury. The plaintiff must show that the property owner:

  • Failed to maintain a safe condition on his or her premises.
  • Aware of the hazardous situation but did not warn tenants or visitors.
  • Neglected dangers that caused damage to a neighboring property.
  • Was careless concerning unsafe conditions which might entice children.

Recoverable Damages

You may be able to recover damages through a personal injury claim based on the severity of your injury. These expenses include:

  • Loss of income due to time missed from work
  • Loss of future earning capability
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Pain and suffering
  • Permanent injuries
  • Physical therapy

Why You Need a Premises Liability Attorney

Premises liability lawsuits are often fiercely challenged by the property owner or business that is being sued. To ensure you have a solid legal foundation to file a premises liability claim, you should speak to a premises liability lawyer who has experience in handling complicated personal injury claims.

If you have been stung by an insect, the video below demonstrates how you can identify and treat the insect bite.

Sacramento Premises Liability Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith, a premises liability attorney in Sacramento. If you or a family member has been injured on a property due to the negligence of a business or on another person’s property, call me today for free, friendly legal advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. You can also reach me online through our contact us form.

I have been helping residents of Sacramento and throughout Northern California since 1982 with their personal injury and wrongful death cases.

I highly recommend that you look at our track record of large settlements and jury verdicts.

I am a member of the Million Dollar Forum.

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Learn more about my staff and me on my website,

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