Are Georgia Property Owners Liable for Injuries Caused by Wild Animals Attacks?
While most animal attacks that cause injury involve dog bite and mauling incidents, some property owners endanger visitors to their property because they permit wild animals to remain on the premises. While property owners can be liable for injuries caused by wild animal attacks on their property, these premises liability lawsuits can be challenging under Georgia law. A wrongful death lawsuit that occurred a few months ago in Illinois and received national media attention provides an example of these complex issues.
The widow and mother of two young children, who filed the wrongful death lawsuit, alleged that her husband was killed when he drowned after being attacked by black swans knowingly kept on the grounds of the property. The man was kayaking on the premises when he was attacked by black swans. His kayak overturned as he tried to fend of the large birds. The birds continued to attack the man as he desperately swam toward the shore of the pond but ultimately drowned. The drowning victim had been visiting the premises for about ten years to tend to a pair of swans that were used by the owner of the condominium complex to prevent the accumulation of geese droppings.
The lawsuit was filed based on the theory that the “defendants knew or should have known that swans are strongly territorial with a dangerous propensity to attack.” The attorney for the deceased relied on the Illinois Animal Control Act, which imposes liability for attacks on animal owners under some circumstances. This case might be challenging because of the special knowledge and experience the deceased had with the birds and his history of providing for their care.
Liability for animal attacks under Georgia law is also potentially challenging because premises liability laws in Georgia tend to favor property owners. In some situations the property owner would be liable. When people are injured by a wild animal or other dangerous condition on the premises of another individual or business, it is important to seek legal advice to obtain an assessment of your rights and your probability of prevailing in a personal injury claim. While the next two paragraphs discuss one Georgia case as an example, keep in mind that every case is different, and subtle differences of fact can result in a different outcome. That is why it is important to always consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
This plaintiffs in this case might have faced an uphill battle in Georgia because of the 2012 Georgia Supreme Court decision in The Landings Club v. Williams, 291 GA. 397, 728 S.E.2e 577 (GA 2012). In Landings, a woman visited family at a residential golf club community on Skidaway Island off the Georgia coast. The woman went for a walk at night on the property after 6 p.m. The next day her body was located floating in one of the lagoons, but both forearms and her left foot were missing. Her missing body parts were later found inside an eight-foot alligator that lived in the lagoon.
The Georgia Supreme Court’s four Justice majority opinion essentially blamed the victim for walking near the lagoons at night because she knew or should have known that it was probable alligators lived in the lagoon. The property owner prevailed on a motion for summary judgment, so the plaintiff did not even make it to trial. Three dissenting Justices argued that questions of fact remained, such as: (1) whether the decedent should have known there were aggressive and dangerous alligators living on the property and in the lagoon and (2) whether the premises owner exercised reasonable care in terms of inspecting the property and keeping the premises safe from alligators.
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If you are injured by a wild animal, dog or other hazardous condition on the premises of an individual, business or public entity, our personal injury attorneys evaluate a range of factors, so we can assess your premises liability claim. Our attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and in the Southeast for over thirty years, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.