The family of an 85-year-old woman who was killed by an alligator while walking her dog has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the real estate company that owns and operates the southeast Florida subdivision where the attack happened.
Gloria Serge was walking her dog in February 2023 along a pond in the Spanish Lakes Fairways development in Fort Pierce when a 10-foot alligator attempted to take her dog, CNN previously reported. She was knocked over and the reptile grabbed Serge by the foot and dragged her into the pond, ultimately killing her. The alligator was later caught and euthanized, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Serge started walking her dog in her backyard after a letter from the property manager told her she was limited to walking her dog on the property or on the development-owned dog run, which was more than a mile from her house, according to a news release by the law firm Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, which filed the lawsuit. The pond where Serge died was in her backyard, the lawsuit states.
“The Defendant encouraged, if not forced, the Decedent [Serge] to walk her dog near a retention pond that it knew, or should have known, contained large, dangerous alligators that constituted a nuisance under the definition developed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” the complaint alleges.
According to the lawsuit, residents and subdivision staff were allowed to feed wildlife, including the alligator in question that residents called Henry, which “had the effect of socializing the alligators toward human contact while downplaying the danger that these animals posed to residents.”
“At more than 10 feet long, ‘Henry’ more than satisfied the requirement and could have been safely and effectively removed from Spanish Lakes Fairway with little more than a telephone call from the managers tasked with keeping the community safe,” the news release said.
“Property owners in Florida, and particularly those managing residential communities catering to elderly residents, have a legal and non-delegable duty to identify dangerous conditions on the property, warn those in the vicinity of the danger and take immediate steps to remove the threat,” Joshua D. Ferraro, an attorney with Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC, said in the news release.
“Unfortunately, the managers at Spanish Lakes Fairways failed to live up to their obligations, and as a direct result, Gloria died a horrible and terrifying death,” Ferraro added.
Although Florida has more than an estimated 1.25 million alligators, attacks by the reptiles are rare – there were 442 unprovoked bite attacks from 1948 to 2021, with 26 of the bites resulting in death, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Wynne Building Corporation president Joel Wynne responded to the lawsuit saying, “We certainly understand the tragedy and the feelings of Mrs. Serge’s family. However, we developed Spanish Lakes Fairways 37 years ago. We have approximately 3,000 residents. This is the very first time where a resident was attacked by an Alligator.”
“Mrs. Serge was a longtime resident and certainly knew of the presence of alligators and that they were inherently dangerous animals,” Wynne said.
Bill Serge, the son of Gloria Serge, told CNN affiliate WPTV that the family was suing because they did not want other families to experience the same pain.
“No child should have to bury their mom under such horrible circumstances,” he told the station.
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