Mon., June 18, 2012 11:00am (EDT)

Family Loses Alligator Case
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
A Georgia Supreme Court decision means the family of 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams has lost its attempt to have a jury try their case against the owners of the gated community near Savannah where she died, possibly after an alligator attack. (Photo Mtsofan)
A Georgia Supreme Court decision means the family of 83-year-old Gwyneth Williams has lost its attempt to have a jury try their case against the owners of the gated community near Savannah where she died, possibly after an alligator attack. (Photo Mtsofan)
Georgia's highest court says, a Savannah-area golf course and private residential community isn't responsible for an alligator attack.

The decision reverses a lower court ruling but doesn't answer a key question affecting businesses.

Eighty-three year-old Gwyneth Williams was walking near a lagoon in the gated island community called The Landings five-years-ago when an alligator bit her foot and arms off.

She died and her family sued the homeowners association.

The family attorney Mike Connor says, The Landings should've done a better job removing alligators.

"I think what the court was afraid of is creating a situation where communities actually had to go out and look for alligators and do things that would make their communities safe," Connor says. "We believe that's exactly what responsible landowners and land managers should do."

The community's attorneys argued that The Landings wasn't responsible for Williams' death under a legal principle concerning wild animals, "ferae naturae."

But the court's decision didn't address that principle.

The Landings attorney Walter Ballew says, the court's narrow ruling doesn't make a larger statement to Georgia businesses about when they can and cannot be held liable for wild animals that wander onto their property.

"They did not address that issue one way or the other," Ballew says. "So we don't have a precedent on that particular question, which is one we had hoped to establish for future cases."

The case could head back to the court for review.