Fan Pushed While Taking “Selfie” Sues Tiger Woods, Caddie Joseph LaCava

Jul 4, 2020

Today, we focus on a recent lawsuit filed by a fan against golf legend Tiger Woods and his caddie, Joseph LaCava. In this case, a spectator at the Valspar Golf Tournament in 2018 attempted to take a “selfie” with Woods in the background, but LaCava allegedly pushed the fan back to make space for Woods to shoot. As a result of LaCava’s shove, the fan suffered serious injuries and subsequently sued Woods and LaCava in Florida state court. This blog will provide a synopsis of the lawsuit filed against Woods and LaCava, and also evaluate the legal issues presented by this golf fan’s claims.

LaCava Allegedly Shoved Fan After “Selfie” Infringed on Woods’s Space

On March 10, 2018, Florida resident Brian Borruso attended the Valspar Golf Tournament at the Innisbrook Copperhead Golf Course in Palm Harbor, Florida. Given the famous reputation earned by Woods in the golf community, a large crowd of fans gathered near every hole hoping to catch a glimpse of Woods in action. As Woods approached the 13th green, Borruso took advantage of his opportunity to be close to the famed golfer by taking a “selfie” picture with Woods in the background. The selfie was actually posted by Borruso’s attorney and can be seen HERE.

Despite Borruso’s insistence that he maintained a safe distance from Woods while taking the selfie, LaCava felt that Borruso had invaded Woods’s shooting space and allegedly shoved Borruso back after he took the picture. Though there is no video evidence of this incident, Borruso’s attorney posted two videos attempting to corroborate his client’s story and show that LaCava’s temper impacted the way he dealt with fans. Specifically, the first video features a shot of Woods walking by while one fan states, “[h]e just pushed him. He just shoved him right out of there.” The second video displays LaCava extending his arm while telling fans to “back it up,” but does not directly show the alleged shove towards Borruso. Under both videos, Borruso’s attorney asks for any other spectators who attended the Valspar Golf Tournament to come forward and confirm Borruso’s account.

Borruso Files Suit Alleging Battery, Negligence

Over two years after the tournament, Borruso filed suit against Woods and LaCava in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Florida. Borruso’s complaint first asserts counts of negligence and battery against LaCava. Borruso also claims that Woods acted negligently in hiring, training, and supervising LaCava as his employee. Moreover, Borruso attempts to hold Woods liable for LaCava’s actions through the doctrine of respondeat superior, which allows employers to be held liable for the actions of their agents. The complaint was also posted by Borruso’s attorney and can be found HERE.

Interestingly, the complaint does not detail Borruso’s specific injuries resulting from the shove. However, Borruso’s attorney does describe his client’s injuries as both physical and mental, and notes that Borruso incurred hospitalization expenses as a result. The complaint also references Borruso’s “mental anguish,” “loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life,” and “loss of ability to earn income,” inferring that Borruso could not work for a substantial period of time after the incident.

What Factors May Impact Borruso’s Case?

Initially, it is important to note that even though Borruso waited over two years to file his lawsuit, Woods and LaCava will not be able to successfully dismiss the claims on the basis that they are time-based. This is because Florida’s statute of limitations allows plaintiffs four years for the filing of personal injury cases. According to Yahoo Sports, Borruso’s attorney waited over two years to file the action so that he could gather “a better understanding of the injuries.”

Regarding Borruso’s substantive allegations, LaCava and Woods are likely to offer a few key defenses to the claims made against them. First of all, these defendants will surely attempt to dismantle Borruso’s factual account of what actually happened at the Tournament in 2018. Borruso’s allegations would be strengthened by video evidence or confirmation from other fans, but given the length of time between the alleged incident and Borruso’s lawsuit, it may prove difficult to find solid witnesses after the 2+ year delay. The two videos posted by Borruso’s attorney offer relevant circumstantial evidence, but the lack of direct evidence allows the opportunity for Woods and LaCava to dispute the facts of the case.

This search for direct evidence also underscores the importance of pretrial discovery in this matter. Namely, Borruso reportedly hopes that the PGA possesses video evidence of LaCava’s push that may be uncovered during this litigation. In addition to the incident itself, discovery will also prove significant with regards to Borruso’s medical records. In the complaint, Borruso references experiencing both hospitalization and aggravation of pre-existing conditions. Here, the defendants will surely want a copy of Borruso’s medical records to examine the extent of his hospital treatment as well as the scope of his pre-existing conditions. While Borruso would not be able to receive damages for any pre-existing conditions, he could earn compensation for the acceleration of such a condition. Therefore, evidence obtained during discovery will likely impact both the outcome and potential damages for this case.

Finally, Woods is likely to assert a separate defense related to his alleged liability for LaCava’s actions. Under traditional torts law, an employer can be held vicariously liable for the actions of an agent so long as those actions fall within the scope of their employment. Though intentional conduct is usually an exception to this rule, Woods may have difficulty successfully arguing that LaCava’s shove was outside the scope of his role because he was helping Woods clear out space to shoot. Separately, Woods may argue that LaCava is an independent contractor and thus, he is not culpable for the caddie’s actions. Should Woods offer this argument, Borusso is likely to respond that Woods exerts sufficient control over LaCava’s work such that he should be considered an employee. Ultimately, this key determination must be made by the Florida court using the “right to control” test, which asks whether the “employer” controlled the specifics of how certain duties are performed. Florida’s guide to independent contractor issues can be found HERE.

Be sure to stay tuned to Coffman Law’s “Golf and the Law” blog series for updates on this case and all of the latest golf-related matters across the country!

About Coffman Law Offices, P.C.

Coffman Law is committed to providing superb legal representation for people who are suffering from severe personal injuries or are dealing with the loss of a loved one due to negligence or misconduct. Coffman Law is a small, results-driven firm focused on ensuring that clients receive the compassion, attention, and consideration that they need to seek adequate redress for injuries or loss. The firm is led by Owner and Founding Partner Brian Coffman, who has dedicated his career to helping accident victims navigate the legal system and obtain redress for their injuries. If you have been injured or lost a loved one, contact Coffman Law today for a free consultation.