Marin County has reached an out-of-court settlement with a man who lost an eye and suffered a traumatic brain injury after being struck by a ball from by a pitching machine at McInnis Park Golf Center.
“He was clearing balls from the batter’s box so he could begin another round when he was struck by a 70-80 mph pitched ball several seconds after the warning lights on the pitching machine went dark,” said the lawsuit by the injured man, Phillip Jaret.
As a result, Jaret, who lives in Marin, suffered complete loss of sight in his right eye as well as fractures to his nose and orbital socket, and a traumatic brain injury.
The accident occurred on May 28, 2021. The batting cages at the golf center have since been closed.
The nine-hole golf course — which includes a driving range, restaurant, banquet facilities, a miniature golf course and, until recently, batting cages — is owned by Marin County. The county entered into a 10-year lease agreement with Tayman Park Golf Group for operation and maintenance of the golf center in April 2012. In May 2017, the county modified the lease to 15 years with two five-year renewal options.
Tayman was named as a defendant in Jaret’s suit along with the county and Baynum Painting Inc., a Kentucky corporation. According to the suit, Tayman hired Baynum around August 2020 to inspect and repair the batting cages to ensure they were safe.
“Baynum did not inspect and repair the batting cage machines in a competent and workmanlike manner, causing the pitching machine for Cage No. 8 to operate in a dangerous and defective manner,” the suit alleged.
The parties in the suit notified the court that they had reached a settlement on Oct. 18. Marin County Counsel Brian Washington said Thursday that he couldn’t supply any details about the agreement until it is signed. Jaret’s lawyer, David Fiol, declined to comment, as did the attorneys representing Tayman and Baynum.
According to the suit, Jaret “was injured due to dangerous conditions that existed at the batting cages including a defective slope that led to accumulation of balls in the batter’s box and defective electrical wiring/components that led to the failure of the warning lights in the pitching machine.”
The suit states that the accident happened after Jaret had completed a batting session and was “clearing balls that had accumulated in the batter’s box because of the defective slope.
“After both warning lights on the pitching machine went dark, falsely indicating that the pitching session had ended,” the suit continues, “plaintiff leaned his bat against the netting and threw balls back towards the machine before bending down at home plate to pick up a ball. He was then struck directly in the face by a ball pitched after the warning lights were off.”
The suit asserts that Tayman failed to perform mandated daily, weekly or monthly inspections and maintained “little or no records of doing any maintenance since taking on the lease.”
The suit also alleges that Tayman did not provide adequate employee training to ensure the batting cages were operated safely.
The suit states that the county received a report in 2018 that the pitching machines were “finicky” and failed to take corrective action. The county’s lease agreement gave the county inspection rights to enforce maintenance standards, according to the legal action.
When the county extended its lease agreement with Tayman in 2017, Chris Chamberlain, assistant director of county parks, told county supervisors that “the partnership with Tayman has been extremely successful to date.”
“They’ve done a masterful job in their operation of the facility. The revenue stream as a result has improved significantly over the previous operator,” Chamberlain said.
Before signing a lease with Tayman in 2012, the county bought out the lease of the golf center’s previous operator, Catherine Munson. Under the deal, taxpayers paid $600,000 and waived $523,000 in back rent.
At the time, Munson said she wasn’t able to make ends meet in the poor economy. She wanted the county to waive the rent debt and more than $1 million in rent payments over three years plus cut lease payments by more than half after that.
After Tayman began managing McInnis in April 2012, revenue to the county grew from approximately $325,000 to $350,000 per year to more than $450,000 a year by 2017.
When the county extended the terms of the lease in 2017, it also increased the amount of money that it and Tayman would contribute to pay for capital improvements. Chamberlain’s written report to supervisors at the time noted that the “golf center is now nearly 20 years old and requires ongoing maintenance and capital improvement investment to ensure the facility is maintained in good working order.”
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The 2017 agreement called for the county and Tayman to each contribute $167,875 for capital improvements over the next 10 years. The agreement also increased Tayman’s minimum annual guaranteed rent from $350,000 to $400,000.
On Friday, Marin County Parks Director Max Korten said Tayman made the decision to close the batting cages after checking with the county first. He said he isn’t sure whether they will reopen.
“Tayman will be evaluating options in connection with the county,” he said.
Korten said the accident hasn’t caused the county to re-evaluate its partnership with Tayman.
“In general, Tayman’s been a really great partner,” he said. “They’ve been adaptive when there has been issues and provided good service.”