In Georgia, owners and managers of multi-tenant residential facilities like condominiums are responsible for maintaining safety on their properties. When residents or their guests are injured due to a crime or accident on the property, the owner or manager can often be held liable if negligence can be proven.
The Georgia Supreme Court recently reversed a state court of appeals ruling that found a golf and homeowners association liable for a deadly alligator attack on the property in 2007. Family of the elderly woman who was killed in the attack filed the suit under premises liability law, arguing that the property owners and association did not do their part to keep residents in the gated community safe from alligators.
There are reportedly several lagoons that house alligators on the property.
The 83-year-old victim was house-sitting for her daughter and son-in-law the night of the alligator attack. She was out walking alone near a lagoon before the attack. One of her feet and both of her forearms had been bitten off in the attack, and a trapper later caught an alligator that had parts of the woman's body in its stomach.
The golf club argued that the woman could have been dead before the alligator found her. Her autopsy reportedly showed that she had heart disease and high levels of an antidepressant in her system.
Georgia's highest court ultimately found that the homeowners association had warned residents of an alligator problem, both via various publications and its website. Although warning signs were not posted at the lagoons, the court held that the woman took a risk when she went out for an evening walk.
Because this case is so unique, it is unclear at this point what its affect on premises liability and wrongful death law might be. Premises liability is a very complex area of law. Those who have been injured on an unsafe or unsecured property are wise to discuss the matter with an experienced premises liability attorney.
Source: Law.com, "Golf club isn't liable for woman-eating alligator," Kathleen Baydala Joyner, June 19, 2012