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Lawsuit to Examine Golf Course's Liability for Alligator Attack

In October 2009, a golfer at the Ocean Creek Golf Club on Fripp Island, S.C., reached down to pick up his ball on the course's 11th hole. The golfer, James Wiencek, had hit his ball “near, but not in” a large pond near the green. As he reached down, a 10-foot alligator "sprung from the brackish and dark water and attacked" Wiencek, biting and holding his right arm. The alligator then pulled Wiencek into the water, tearing off his right arm at the elbow.

Last week, Wiencek filed a lawsuit against the golf course's owners and operators alleging that his injury was the result of their negligence. The lawsuit alleges that defendants had "actual or constructive knowledge" of the presence of a large and aggressive alligator because neighbors had spotted the alligator on the course and alerted defendants. Accordingly, plaintiff alleges, the course breached its duty to (a) "secure the premises of the golf course and to warn its business invitees, including the Plaintiff, of the alligator’s aggressive presence, size, or aggressive behavior;" and (b) "make the golf course premises reasonably safe for the Plaintiff and to warn the Plaintiff of the presence of the large, dangerous, and aggressive alligator."

Wiencek also argues that the golf course is strictly liable because its construction "created an artificial habitat for alligators that did not exist prior to the construction of the golf course, and specifically, the pond near the 11th hole."

OnPoint News reports that the lawsuit may be a long shot because a Florida appeals court has previously held that "a property owner cannot be held liable for an attack by a wild animal that has not been 'reduced to possession,' but which exists in 'a state of nature.'”

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 25, 2011 at 04:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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