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