Georgia Supreme Court to hear death-by-alligator case

Law school students, mark your calendars for February.

The Georgia Supreme Court has agreed to hear a gruesome civil suit over who’s to blame for an 83-year-old woman’s death by alligator at a coastal Georgia country club and subdivision.

In 2007, Gwyneth Williams, was house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law while they were in Europe. A neighbor found her dismembered body floating in a lagoon on the property.

The contents of the stomach of an alligator captured within the lagoon confirmed that it had attacked the woman. But The Landings country club and homeowners association, who have been sued by the woman’s family for negligence, dispute that this was the cause of death and have posited the possibility that Williams died of a heart attack first.

The state Court of Appeals sided with the family, who made this argument:

”This alligator came out of one of the petitioner’s lagoons. This lagoon was man-made. According to one of the petitioner’s own experts, the alligator was 12 to 25 years old. ….[T]he alligator had been present in the lagoon for a long time, and could have and should have been easily discovered and removed…

Argue The Landing entities:

“The alligators found within the Landings community are wild animals that migrate to and from Skidaway Island.”

Longstanding precedents elsewhere argue, their lawyers contend:

“….A landowner should not be penalized for the presence of wild animals on his or her property unless the owner has by his or her own actions taken control or possession of the indigenous wild animal or introduced a non-indigenous animal to the property.”

According to the country club’s petition for a Supreme Court hearing, Georgia courts have one unsatisfactory precedent involving damage caused by a wild animal — a 1935 civil suit involving a monkey, or perhaps a baboon, that had escaped a private zoo.

A hearing in Williams case has been tentatively set for early next year. Case numbers are S11G1263 and S11G1277.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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38 comments Add your comment

Centrist

October 18th, 2011
1:41 pm

Why is this deemed political news?

Eric

October 18th, 2011
2:18 pm

Ok, Avser is crazy. Centrist. Supreme Court = One-third of the political process in America. Checks and balances, remember? Civics class. That’s why.

BTW, love your name. It fits with all the other right-wing nutjobs who LIE. Congrats on being a shill. The Koch brothers (who dont give a f*** about you) certainly appreciate it.

jgalloway

October 18th, 2011
2:18 pm

Centrist:

Law school students are some of my most faithful readers — sometimes they deserve a little extra something.

Besides, two or three of these Supremes will be on the ballot next year.

If it makes it easier, think of the gator as European-style socialism.

RGB

October 18th, 2011
2:20 pm

Somehow it’ll all be Newt or Herman’s fault before Jim’s through with it. : )

A dad

October 18th, 2011
2:37 pm

I’m sure that alligator was here illegally. It’s Bush’s fault!

Centrist

October 18th, 2011
2:38 pm

Here is some political news of interest:

http://notsplost.org

Tea Party Responds to Project List
Posted on October 17, 2011

GEORGIA TEA PARTY PATRIOTS AND ATLANTA TEA PARTY LEADERS RESPOND TO T-SPLOST PROJECT LIST

ATLANTA, GA – Tea Party leaders Julianne Thompson and Debbie Dooley released a statement today regarding the proposed T-SPLOST list release today.
“Now that the final project list has been released we are more determined than ever to make sure this T-SPLOST is DOA. For instance, the idea of targeting $95 million in taxpayers’ money to a light rail study in Gwinnett that no one will ever use is fiscal irresponsibility at its worst.

We all agree there is a traffic problem in metro-Atlanta, and we support infrastructure improvements like bridges, road improvements, lane widening, traffic lights, etc. But let’s be frank, this is not an infrastructure improvement plan. The project list is not targeted to benefit the majority of citizens in the areas they need relief the most. This is a mass transit tax targeted at financial Titanic MARTA. We are in the process of forming a PAC to help candidates and issues. We will educate citizens, fight this, and turn-out the votes when it comes up on the ballot.”

On the other side, the AJC has an article about how there is to be “More than $6 million 
to be spent on educating voters about [T-SPLOST] projects.

Centrist

October 18th, 2011
2:49 pm

Here is more Georgia political news Mr. Jim Galloway probably does not want to blog about:

http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/court-ruling-on-alabama-1204732.html

On Friday, The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta refused to halt the Alabama provision that would require police to do immigration status check. Georgia legislators inserted a similar provision this year in their immigration law which became law. Recent news reports say Hispanic immigrants have been fleeing Alabama because of its new law.

Recent news reports say Hispanic immigrants have been fleeing Alabama because of its new law.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said the court’s ruling in the Alabama case is worrisome. Recent news reports say Hispanic immigrants have been fleeing Alabama because of its new law.

“If the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals believes that, then potentially that could go into effect here in Georgia,” he said. “And the chaos that we are seeing in Alabama could happen here as well.”

DannyX

October 18th, 2011
2:54 pm

“On the other side, the AJC has an article about how there is to be “More than $6 million 
to be spent on educating voters about [T-SPLOST] projects.”

Wow, 6 million. Republicans really, really, really want another huge tax increase. In fact the Republican transportation plan would be the largest tax increase in Georgia history.

This after the Republican Georgia Power give-a-way, and the Republican property tax increase.

Don’t forget the never ending tolls.

Centrist is right, STOP ELECTING REPUBLICANS!!!!!!

SpaceyG on Twitter

October 18th, 2011
3:00 pm

If I was to make a list of Things Home Owners Associations Knew All About But Did Absolutely Nothing I’d get carpal tunnel from all the required typing.

Eli

October 18th, 2011
3:03 pm

Here is some news, since Centrist is obviously behind the times.

Since 1791 there were these two very important inventions: the automobile and the train.

Both are used to transport goods and humans from one point to another. Automobiles and trains are able to do this only if there are suitable pathways between points. Cars use roads, trains use rail. Both are constructed from scarce raw materials, thus it costs money to build roads and to build rail. Unless money is collected, appropriated, and spent, roads and rail will not be built.

Majorities are not necessary or even proper means of testing the need of some public good. Rail need not benefit a majority of people in north metro Atlanta. It need only benefit enough people to justify the construction of a rail system. These benefits are also not confined to those that use the rail system…as less congestion on I-85 during the morning and afternoon commutes is a benefit distributed amongst all of those that drive on that road. Like HOV lanes. HOV lanes do not just provide a benefit to those that used the HOV lane, they benefit everyone on the road.

In a sense, Centrist’s naive litmus test is actually passed in this scenario. Everybody benefits from rail in Gwinnett.

td

October 18th, 2011
3:07 pm

Interesting sounding case and I am waiting to see what the ramifications of the case are.

Centrist: There is a big political question here. Can property owners be held civilly liable for things outside of their control. If this is upheld then if a person just stuck by lighting while walking across your property then you could be liable. Trail lawyers (mostly dems. are drooling for this decision to be upheld.

Centrist

October 18th, 2011
3:15 pm

Hopefully this is just a deep pockets attempt to change the law. According to a lot of insurance companies, such “Acts of God” are not considered liability issues. Here is an example:

http://www.insurancequotes.org/you-cannot-sue-for-damage-caused-by-act-of-god/

Clinton "Skink" Tyree

October 18th, 2011
3:24 pm

This reminds me of a situation where The Donald bought the huge Post cereal heir mansion in Palm Beach. It just happened to be in line with one of the main runways at the airport. Anyway, The Donald bought the house and then sued the airport because the jets made a loud noise when they flew over his house.

Or, my neighbor complaining to the HOA about deer eating her flowers. When you choose to live in certain areas, there are negatives that come with the positives.

Your Honor, the entire development was built on land that was previously occupied by alligators. They were dislocated to make room for houses and a golf course. The alligators are unaware of HOA rules, zoning and merely came back home.

Further, your Honor, the alligators, being prehistoric reptiles, are unaware of manners and saw in the unfortunate senior citizen a meal. Now, your Honor, is my client responsible for every danger? Does he have to remove snakes, skunks, fox, possums, spiders, mosquitoes and squirrels?

Your Honor, we’re sorry about the tragedy, but alligators will be alligators and when you choose to live close to nature. . . .well, nature can be a frightening thing.

Ol' Timer

October 18th, 2011
3:32 pm

@td: You are so fixated on politics that you can’t even post about an alligator eatin’ an ol’ person without introducing politics into the subject.

And, besides: I’ll bet there are an equal number of Republican Trial Lawyers as Dems because that’s where the money is and we all know the Repubs love the money.

Beeg Boi

October 18th, 2011
3:41 pm

The Gator mentioned that the old lady tasted like chicken.

Centrist

October 18th, 2011
3:43 pm

@ Ol’ Timer – Your figures are slightly off concerning trial lawyers and where their political money goes- 96% to Democrats:

http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00024521

mum

October 18th, 2011
3:44 pm

@jgalloway, European-style socialism….very funny!

GaBlue

October 18th, 2011
3:47 pm

Mr. Galloway,

HAHAHAHAHA! Great retort! Hahahaha!

DannyX

October 18th, 2011
3:49 pm

Centrist can’t pretend that the gator is a Democrat. If gators were Democrats they would never eat the the Mexicans that got caught in the border moat.

Alligators are Republican.

Idiot watcher

October 18th, 2011
3:53 pm

I think it’s Newt’s and Herman’s fault. The alligator was probably agitated about Newt’s Tiffany’s account and Herman’s 9-9-9 plan, and took it out on the poor old woman.

GaBlue

October 18th, 2011
3:56 pm

Yes, DannyX,

Alligators are definitely Republican. They are willing to sacrifice the retirement years of little old people who worked and saved for the privilege of enjoying a few subtropical sunrises in the comfort of a modest cotton housecoat to the Almighty Free Market Food Chain God and claim divine right of the Darwinistic survival of the fittest, in the name of that sandal-wearing hippie commie Jesus, Amen.

Gator AIDS

October 18th, 2011
4:01 pm

It’s interesting that readers would post their own take on the situation and try to decide the case by making an analogy. I wonder if the courts considered any evidence, testimony or arguments, or if they just ruled and then decided to wait to consider AJC Blogposts in writing a decision on appeal.
It’s not like the Trump case, dummy. What Trump did is considered “coming to the nuisance.” See the USSC case in Del Webb. Real estate developers who built homes downwind from cattle ranch can’t sue ranchers because of black flies.
This is not a nuisance case anyway. This is a tort case for negligence. You are correct that it involves real estate, but you even managed to mischaracterize the land. The gator was there because the tortfeasor created an artificial body of water that invited the gator. They created the danger, and there is always strict liability for harm from wild animals that you cause to be on land where the victim is an invitee.
Duh.

ramguy68

October 18th, 2011
4:09 pm

There is a big political question here. Can property owners be held civilly liable for things outside of their control. If this is upheld then if a person just stuck by lighting while walking across your property then you could be liable.

Poor analogy. Mankind can’t control lighting..

Smoke

October 18th, 2011
4:12 pm

First, sympathy to the family who lost someone so under the circumstances. It is going to be interesting to hear the argument that if they can find alligators in Dacula, Macon, Valdosta, and Fayetteville, let alone along the Chattahoochee below Columbus, why they couldn’t be found in a country club subdivision along the coast. Why didn’t the family know about the gator if they are saying it should have been easily discovered.

M. D. Johnson

October 18th, 2011
4:14 pm

This page is populated by both Left- and Right-Wing NUT JOBS. All of you need to get a life.

Politi Cal

October 18th, 2011
4:20 pm

Yes, this IS an important legal issuie, especially as wild animal populations have soared due to decreased hunting. The issue: Should a land owner be held to the usual “reasonable man” theory of negligence law (i.e., would a reasonable man have acted in the same or similar manner) when there is an intervention by a wild animal? Then you have to define “wild animal.” Is an alligator living in a subdivision or country club pond “wild” for purposes of law? Did the lady exercise a reasonable standard of care for her own safety? Was her own negligence (if any) a contributing the cause of her accident? Lots of fun legal questions here, and essentially ALL legal questions are fundamentally political in a democratic society.

Smoke

October 18th, 2011
4:22 pm

Here is a secret. All Dixiecrat Juris Doctors in Georgia regardless of their type of practice are “lawyers,” therefore, most trial lawyers in Georgia are Republicans.

Smoke

October 18th, 2011
4:34 pm

Teachable Moment: Of the seven SCJ’s, four were originally appointed by Dixiecrat Miller, two by Dixiecrat Perdue, one by the Old-School Joe Frank Harris.

Ndageramiwe

October 18th, 2011
6:02 pm

“…and have posited the possibility that Williams died of a heart attack first.”

Well that seems reasonable. I can see where I might have a heart attack if I was being eaten by an alligator.

General Andrew Jackson

October 18th, 2011
6:04 pm

“Hopefully this is just a deep pockets attempt to change the law. According to a lot of insurance companies, such “Acts of God” are not considered liability issues.”

God is an alligator?

Alabama Communist

October 18th, 2011
6:14 pm

More Breaking News On Alligator Case….Herman Cain said today! ” This is another example of a Terrorist Gay Alligator attacking a America and getting a welfare meal for nothing..”

Members of the Alligator family said they would appeal the Case and would demand that Herman Cain apologize to Animal Rights groups for associating with Gay Groups..

GA Hunter

October 18th, 2011
6:34 pm

I am sorry for the family but I must tell you, alligators migrate to find food. I had a gator in our hunting property pond, showed up one day, stayed around for a few weeks, ate all our ducks and then was gone, still walk carefully around pond. Funny thing game wardens said gators did not travel that far north. Yea, right.

SAWB

October 18th, 2011
6:44 pm

We have the same issues at Hilton Head not just with gators, but also deer. The problem is that no one can agree how best to address the problem once all the environmental and animal rights folks get involved. At the end of the day we need to remember that there are still wild animals around and be aware of our surroundings. I feel bad for the family, but unless I am missing something it sounds like a tragic accident.

J

October 18th, 2011
6:46 pm

LMAO. This is one case I will follow.

ozzfest

October 18th, 2011
6:49 pm

SEND IN MARK RICHT, HE TASTES REAL GOOD TO alliGATORS.

Ronin

October 18th, 2011
7:07 pm

@ TD, your comment: “There is a big political question here. Can property owners be held civilly liable for things outside of their control. If this is upheld then if a person just stuck by lighting while walking across your property then you could be liable” Not exactly.

The gator was a know hazard or potential hazard that the property owner had knowledge of, thereby being on notice of the hazard. Without taking action to remedy the hungry reptile, the woman was killed. As far as lighting, totally unpredictable and there is no way to assign liability to a random unforeseeable act.

The question for the court is the level or standard of care that the property owner should be held to.

double

October 18th, 2011
8:43 pm

Them trail lawyers are he11.

newshound

October 19th, 2011
2:47 pm

Regarding the gator case, how can the daughter and son-in-law sue The Landings if they live there? Were they not aware of the gator? Most of us know there are gators in the marshes surronding Savannah.