It sounds like a Hardy Boys title, but this case was no mystery…
In 2009, a 77 year-old Ohio man was visiting Fripp Island, South Carolina on vacation with his family. He was an avid golfer, so he and his son decided to use some of their down time to play a round at a local golf course. The game went like any other until his ball landed near a water hazard on the 11th hole…
When the man retrieved his ball, a 10.5 foot, 400 pound alligator lunged from the pond, grabbed the man by the arm, and dragged him into the water. The alligator went into a death roll, snapping the arm and severing it from the man’s body. Luckily his son and other golfers pulled the man from the pond and put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Doctors were able to save the man’s life, but his arm could not be reattached.
Wild animal attacks rarely produce lawsuits. But alligators are a unique sort of beast. The reptiles often inhabit the same stretch of water and, once they’ve reached the length of six feet, can be very deadly to humans.
The victim of the alligator attack hired Chappell Smith and Arden attorneys Mark Chappell and Hugh McAngus to investigate his case. Reviews of documents in the possession of the golf course revealed that the course was very aware that its patrons had been feeding the gator and had received complaints about its aggressiveness in the past. Yet the course took no measures to either remove the alligator from its premises or warn golfers about its potential danger.
The case did not settle and proceeded to trial. A compensable injury in this type of case is the fear and terror an individual would suffer when being attacked by a 400 pound predator. Mark and Hugh debated the best way to convey this feeling to the jury, then had an idea: why not show them the gator, itself???
Well the alligator that actually attacked their client had been destroyed by the Department of Natural Resources in an attempt to retrieve the man’s arm. But, as they say, you can find anything on the Internet! A quick search produced a seller of stuffed alligators in South Florida who had, you guessed it, a 10.5 foot gator for sale. One hefty UPS bill later, our alligator depicted above–let’s call her “Ollie”–was sitting on the office floor.
The morning of trial, Mark and Hugh marched into the federal courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina with their briefcases and a massive, stuffed reptile. Ollie was now Exhibit #1!!! Shortly after the defendants saw the beast, with teeth flashing, the case settled for a confidential amount.
But even though Ollie was never actually introduced as evidence at trial, she has found a permanent home on Mark Chappell’s office floor. And she remains the most famous trial exhibit ever prepared by Chappell Smith and Arden, P.A.