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Tycoon buddies take golf incident to court

By Dominic Wabala | Published Sat, February 10th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 10th 2018 at 00:05 GMT +3
Karen County club

A cool round of golf at the prestigious Karen Golf and Country Club between two buddies turned ugly forcing the aggrieved party to take the matter to court.

Tycoon Richard Kemoli and renowned dental surgeon Dr Chris Obura have wound up in court with the surgeon claiming millions from his friend.

Court documents seen by Saturday Standard show the origin of the animosity between the two long-time friends and former classmates can be traced to a late afternoon on December 30, 2015.

On the fateful day, Mr Kemoli, Dr Obura, former legislator Yusuf Chanzu and Dr Robin Mogere accompanied by four caddies happily teed off the game at approximately 1:30pm for what promised to be a satisfying game.

Was in severe pain

But along the way, things swung south.

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“It was Kemoli’s turn to putt. Having pulled, suddenly, violently, without any warning whatsoever moved backwards, crashed into the plaintiff who was standing behind him causing the plaintiff to fly and fall sideways landing on his hip. The plaintiff was unable to move and was in severe pain,” read the suit papers filed on behalf of Dr Obura.

Swiftly, Dr Obura was assisted onto a golf cart and rushed to the Club House from where he was transported by St John’s ambulance and later rushed to Nairobi Hospital.

He fractured the left femur causing disability of 50 per cent of the scope of body walking functions.

According to court papers, as a result of the injuries, he was hospitalised at Nairobi Hospital from December 31, 2015 to January 9, 2016 accruing a bill of Sh1,901,234.

He also had to foot Sh250,000 fees for his doctor Prof Atingo, Sh266,743 in medical requirements, Sh99,000 for physiotherapy at Karen Hospital, Sh16,800 at Nairobi Hospital, Sh43,500 and nursing services amounting to Sh209,540.

To add salt to injury, Dr Obura also says he was operated on the next day by Prof Atingo and a Bipolar Titanium prosthesis inserted as a hip joint. He was admitted for ten days then went home for nursing and rehabilitation.

Having suffered such catastrophic physical, financial and emotional damages Dr Obura chose to seek redress in court.

The surgeon is suing Mr Kemoli for close to Sh5 million as special damages of Sh2.7 million (Sh2,786,819) for pain and suffering, general damages for injuries, and resultant disabilities, including Sh1.9 million as medical costs.

As a result of the injuries Dr Obura, through his lawyer Okwatch & Company Advocates says his life has been shattered and he cannot perform basic functions like bend low to put on his shoes, or socks on his left foot.

Can’t lead normal life

More humiliating, he has to use a specially made toilet to accommodate his disabilities.

He also cannot sit in low chairs or get into low cars for fear of dislocation.

In a nutshell, he says his life is now off balance.

 “... this accident has altered my life forever. I will not be able to lead a normal life and play golf properly as I used to do, a sport I have played and enjoyed for the last 50 years,” Dr Obura says.

But how common are accidents at the erstwhile serene and impeccable golf course?

A witness and caddie Moven Odemo Muganda in his statement, says although it is not unusual for accidents to happen on the golf course, Mr Kemoli was at fault for suddenly moving backwards.

The two former gold buddies are relying on the interpretation of standard laws and practices on the golf course to further their arguments.

On his part, Kemoli, who has served in several company boards like East African Breweries Ltd, Kakuzi and CMC, says the facts of the incident are distorted.

He says it is Dr Obura who requested him by phone on 30 December to organise a four ball game, which he did.

Kemoli also says Dr Obura  failed to adhere to the United States Golf Association rules, which in turn exposed him to danger.

The rules state that all players are expected to show consideration for the putting player and should not disturb.

“The plaintiff negligently failed to keep a safe distance from the defendant when the latter was putting and instead stood close to or directly behind the ball. The plaintiff was in breach of these two rules at the time it was the defendant’s turn to play. The defendant was not aware the plaintiff was standing too closely behind him otherwise he would have asked him to move away,” Kemoli says.

Kemoli further argues that he took his putting stroke in a customary stooping position and after executing and holing the ball assumed an upright position. In the process, he must have taken a step backwards and collided with the plaintiff.

The suspect text message

 Dr Obura, however says Kemoli admitted liability in the form of a text message sent on 31 December.

“Chris, I wish you very speedy recovery. I have been agonising about how and why the freak accident occurred and it remains incomprehensible to me. Please accept my sympathy for the pain and discomfort you have to endure,” Regards, Richard Kemoli, read the court submissions.

One of Dr Obura’s witnesses, who also serves as his caddie, says the golf course can be a dangerous place.

“In my experience, it is not unusual for accidents to happen at a golf course such as ball hitting a player or spectators or such as what happened to daktari. On that day, it was Mr Kemoli who was at fault by suddenly moving backwards,” the caddie says in his statement.

Meanwhile, Dr Obura continues to nurse injuries.

Dr Obura says after discharge, he needed day and night nurses for two months and physiotherapy at home between January and February before further treatment at Nairobi Hospital Clinic at Galleria.

The dental surgeon is suing for damage caused by the negligence and or breach of duty and rules of etiquette of the game.

This includes failing to ensure safety of all players, caddies, spectators and members of the public when involved in golf, failing to ensure that as a player, he did not position himself in such a way as to endanger others, filing to break, slow down or stop so as to avoid the collision among others.

In his swift defence, Kemoli says Dr Obura’s claims of malice and negligence against him are an afterthought.

He says he stood with his friend to the last minute when he was rushed to hospital and even gives an instance where the injured doctor divulged some precious information to him they waited for an ambulance to take him to hospital.

“He whispered into my ear the secret combination lock of his briefcase which was in his car with the request that I remove privileged documents,” Kemoli says.

“This is hardly the labour entrusted upon a malicious and negligent man.”

Incidentally, the two friends turned foes were born in the same year - 1935 and studied at Alliance High School.

They have both been golf captains and are former Central Bank of Kenya governor Philip Ndegwa’s close friends.

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