Article Courtesy of Boca News
By Andrew Colton
Published August 23, 2018
DELRAY BEACH — The critical crash in G.L. Homes’ Seven Bridges involving four
children on a golf cart highlights challenges for Florida law enforcement and
homeowner associations when it comes to regulating kids driving golf carts, and
convincing their parents that it’s a recipe for disaster.
A police report obtained by
BocaNewsNow.com but not yet generally public details the
August 9th crash. It states the four children — who we are
not naming — were riding a 2014 EZ Go “Freedom” Golf Cart on
the community’s main street when the unlicensed 15-year-old
girl driving the cart darted in front of an oncoming car.
The car, driven by Sunny Isles resident Eduard Hiutin,
slammed into the golf cart. Police say Hiutin was not
responsible for the crash. There was no reasonable
expectation that a golf cart, loaded with kids, would cut in
front of him.
Hiutin did not return a call seeking comment.
The golf cart driver and passengers, ages 11, 13, 14 and 15
were all ejected onto the street. They were transported by
ambulance to the trauma unit at Delray Medical Center where
one was treated for a catastrophic injury. The 15-year-old
driver and two of the children live in the community, one in
A car collides with a golf cart driven by a 15 year
old girl on August 9th, 2018.
Investigators cited the teenage girl driving the cart for
“operating a motor vehicle in a careless or negligent manner” as well as
“failure to yield right of way.” Attorneys say the girl’s mother, who owns
the golf cart, would likely be a litigation target if the injured file suit.
Florida Attorney Jason Melton is a former Federal prosecutor who specializes
in golf cart crashes and personal injury cases.
“I don’t think a child driving a golf cart is a good idea,” he said. “Every
14-year-old or 15-year-old is different, but that’s a risk that you’re
taking. I don’t think any parent should let an (unlicensed) teen drive a
golf cart. Just from a responsibility perspective, an adult should be in the
Melton’s firm has offices near The Villages — one of the largest golf cart
communities in the United States — as well as in Boca Raton. He says parents
and owners need to understand that they are ultimately liable for what
happens on their golf cart.
“I couldn’t sue a child. I would have to sue the parents (if a child is at
fault),” he said, discussing non-specific golf cart crashes. “And If you go
after the owner of the cart for being vicariously liable, then you’re still
suing the parents.”
Tim Babiarz, also a Florida attorney with golf cart crash expertise, says a
lawsuit from an injury involving a golf cart crash can be devastating.
“The golf cart owner can be ruined financially. If a child, for instance,
suffers a traumatic brain injury, his lifecare plan could be (more than) two
million dollars. If the golf cart isn’t licensed and insured with its own
policy, the owner is going to get pounded.”
While the unlicensed teenager is at fault for the Seven Bridges crash, the
fact that she had no license isn’t an issue — at least criminally. It’s a
Florida legal ambiguity that often puts law enforcement — and HOAs — in a
Florida law says it’s okay for a golf cart driver to be as young as 14, so
long as it’s in a private community that’s registered with the Florida
Department of Transportation as a “Golf Cart” community. However, even if
the community is just gated, police are unlikely to file charges against a
golf cart driver for being unlicensed.
Speaking generically about golf cart crashes in the City of Boca Raton,
police spokesman Mark Economou says Florida gated communities set their own
“As for whether the golf cart driver was unlicensed or not, that wouldn’t be
part of (a normal crash) investigation because it was on private property,
unless there were other circumstances such as the teen was drinking.
(Generally,) it’s up to the HOA to fine (an underage driver) for operating
on their property if they had an age restriction rule.”
Tim Babianz, the golf cart crash attorney, believes the laws need to change.
“If you knew a kid had to be 16 and licensed to drive a golf cart, you would
take away the temptation to throw the key to a 14 year old. It makes no
Like many gated communities in the area, Seven Bridges is a private
community but not registered for golf carts. However, HOA documents filed
with the clerk of courts reveal that the Seven Bridges HOA requires a golf
cart driver to be at least 16 years old and carry a valid driver’s license.
The community does not require the cart to display a license plate or carry
Policies differ in private, family-oriented communities throughout the
region, including Boca Falls in West Boca.
“Our property has been advised that Palm Beach County requires anyone that
drives a golf cart to be a licensed driver,” said longtime HOA President
Marjorie Licht. “We, of course, have to adhere to County rules. In addition,
our HOA also considers a golf cart a motor vehicle and require that it be
registered with our property management. When the golf carts are registered,
we inform the owners of Palm Beach County rules. We believe it’s important
that cart owners understand that these vehicles are for real drivers – not
Licht says she is unaware of any significant golf cart incidents in the
community which is nearly 30 years old.
“When our security sees kids drive, they stop them, ask for ID and escort
In the City of Boca Raton, the police department recently posted to an
online forum when residents complained about kids driving golf carts on city
“There are currently no roadways in the City of Boca Raton that are
designated for golf cart use,” wrote the department, according to Spokesman
Economou. “Those observed operating a golf cart on a roadway will receive a
citation. If a juvenile is observed operating a golf cart on a roadway,
besides the citation, a parent or responsible adult must respond and take
custody of the cart.”
A G.L. Homes spokesman said G.L.’s principals can’t discuss the Seven
Bridges crash or the responsibility of its private security force in
enforcing golf cart rules in the company’s many “under construction”
communities throughout the area.
Attorneys suggest that G.L.may face litigation itself as a result of the
crash. Public records confirm that a G.L. Homes Vice President serves as
president of the Seven Bridges HOA which makes the community’s rules and
controls their enforcement.
While some legal observers argue that it is unreasonable to hold an HOA or
builder liable for bad decisions made by homeowners, attorney Melton says
insurance companies and lawyers representing the injured in any golf cart
crash will investigate every aspect of what happened.
“There could be historical context behind the event.” said Melton, speaking
about non-specific golf cart crashes. “Maybe the association has warned the
individual multiple times before. Maybe the association has been warned
before. Maybe the association itself bares responsibility because (the
board) didn’t do anything about it.”
But Melton also echoed comments made by law enforcement, builder
representatives and HOA leaders throughout the area contacted for this
Simply put: It’s not just about the law. It’s about common sense.
“I actually don’t think it’s a complicated problem, “ said Melton. “Most
golf carts require a key to start. unfortunately people always leave their
key in a golf cart. People don’t leave keys in a car. They’re both motorized
vehicles and can cause harm. They should be treated the same way.”