Can You Sue A Posh Subdivision When Your Grandmother Is Eaten By An Alligator?

On a day when officials are tracking the release of wild animals in Ohio, the Georgia Supreme Court is preparing for a different kind of case involving alligators in fancy resort communities.

The Georgia Supreme Court will take up a case this winter and decide whether the homeowner’s association of a  gated community can be held liable when an 83 year old woman is eaten by an 8 foot alligator.

The case arises out of the 2007 death of Gwyneth Williams, who was house sitting for her daughter at  a subdivision called “The Landings”.  In the early evening she was wandering near the golf course when an 8 foot alligator bit off one of her legs and both hands.

She was found the next morning floating in one of the 168 man made lagoons on the property. The alligator was caught , and Williams’ limbs were found in its stomach.

Mike Connor, a lawyer representing Williams’ two children, says the Georgia Supreme Court will tackle an old legal doctrine called “ferrae naturae” which says in essence that a landowner is generally not responsible for the unforeseen attacks of a wild animal that happens to be on the land.

But Connor says the doctrine should not apply in the death of his client because the home owners association knew that alligators were on the property and they knew they were dangerous. Connors says there is a written policy that 7 foot long alligators should be removed.

“We have a lot of alligators down here,” Connor says . He claims that despite the policy, the homeowner’s association did nothing to keep track of the size of the alligators.

“This case is important environmentally because it shows just how tense the interaction between human beings and animals can be. It puts a point on how important it is for us to be receptive of the natural environment as we intrude.” Connor says.

The Georgia Supreme Court was divided in its decision to take up the case. A lawyer for the subdivision declined to return a call for comment.

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