Neighborhood Association Not Liable for Alligator Attack
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled recently that a homeowner’s association should not be held liable for the death of an 83-year-old woman who was killed by an alligator. This decision reversed a lower court ruling that a jury should hear the lawsuit brought by the woman’s family.
Gwyneth Williams was attacked in the Landings Association gated community on Skidway Island. In October 2007, her body was found in a lagoon within the community. The lagoon was known to be frequented by an alligator. Ms. Williams’s body was recovered from the swamp, and some of her remains were later found in the stomach of an 8 foot long beast.
The lawsuit against the homeowner’s association claims that it should have done more to protect residents in the neighborhood from the alligator. The state Supreme Court ruled that the homeowner’s association was not liable, as Ms. Williams was well aware of the danger of alligators in the area.
Generally, Georgia law protects property owners from negligence claims due to attacks from wild animals. However, lawyers for Ms. Williams family claimed that since the Landings Association is not a wild place at all, but was built to house residents and created with man-made lagoons, the neighborhood should be liable for Ms. Williams’s death.
Ultimately, the court ruled against Ms. Williams’ family. Despite the fact that the Landings Association knew about the alligator and didn’t take steps to remove it, they cannot be held responsible for Ms. Williams death.
To see the actual opinion please click on http://www.gasupreme.us/sc-op/pdf/s11g1263.pdf
This ruling is consistent with Georgia law on superior knowledge. In a premises liability case, you have to prove the landowner, or occupier has a greater knowledge or superior knowledge of the danger that causes injury. In this matter, it appears Ms. Williams knew there were alligators and still chose to walk near a lagoon at night. This was enough for the court to deny the claim.