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ARCHIVES: May 2015

The Case of the Stuffed Alligator

South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers discuss the case of the stuffed alligator


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.

Jacob Born to Lead Charleston School of Law Alumni Chapter

Jacob Born to Lead Charleston School of Law Alumni Chapter

The law firm of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. PA is pleased to announce that attorney Jacob Born was named president of the Charleston School of Law Alumni Association Columbia Area Chapter.

The Columbia chapter is one of 10 regional chapters established by the school. Born is a 2011 graduate of the Charleston School of Law and a 2006 graduate of the University of South Carolina.

“I am excited to serve the Charleston School of Law Alumni Association through the Columbia Area Chapter,” Born said. “Giving back to the community is important to me and I look forward to collaborating with Trey Nicolette, our chapter vice president.”

Born is admitted to practice law in both South Carolina and Georgia. At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. hispractice areas include personal injury, motor vehicle accidents, products liability, nursing home abuse and neglect, premises liability, catastrophic injury litigation, and trucking accidents.

“At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. we encourage our attorneys to participate fully in the life of the communities they serve,” said partner Mark Chappell. “Jacob is an outstanding and compassionate young attorney. Through his activities with his alma mater – as well as other organizations such as the Richland County Recreation Foundation, where he is a board member – Jacob helps make our community a better place.”

Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. was founded more than two decades ago and now has offices in Columbia, Rock Hill, Aiken, Florence, Sumter and Charleston, South Carolina. The firm’s attorneys are licensed to practice in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and the District of Columbia.

Mark Chappell Receives Prestigious “Compleat Lawyer” Award

Mark Chappell CSA Law

In a reception last night at the University of South Carolina, Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. co-founder Mark Chappell received the prestigious “Compleat Lawyer” award from the USC School of Law Alumni Council.

The Compleat Lawyer award was established in 1992 and is bestowed upon attorneys who have made significant contributions to the legal profession and exemplify the highest standards of professional competence, ethics and integrity. The award selection committee consists of the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the President of the South Carolina Bar, the Chairman of the Law School Alumni Council, and the Dean of the USC School of Law.

Mark Chappell was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1985 and has handled thousands of cases including at least one in every county of the State. His civic achievements include playing instrumental roles in the drafting and enacting of the “Jessica Horton Act“, which requires outside investigation of deaths on college campuses, and “Chandler’s Law“, which requires the observation of strict safety protocols for minors operating All-Terrain vehicles.

USC School of Law Alumni Council honors Mark Chappell with Compleat Lawyer Award

USC School of Law Alumni Council honors Mark Chappell with Compleat Lawyer Award


Recognizing an attorney of extraordinarily high standards, Mark D. Chappell, Founding Partner of Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. was named a recipient of the 2015 Gold Compleat Lawyer Award by University of South Carolina School of Law Alumni Council.

Chappell received the award April 30 at the Annual Alumni Dinner on the university campus. Established in 1992, the Compleat Lawyer Award is the School of Law’s highest recognition of professional achievement and civic leadership by the school’s alumni. Award recipients are nominated by other lawyers, or by members of the public who are familiar with a lawyer’s work. The final selection is made by the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the President of the South Carolina Bar, the Co-chair of the Law School Council and the Dean of the Law School.

“When you are passionate about what you do, and you do it long enough, sometimes people notice. That’s how I feel about being an attorney,” Chappell said. “I had always wanted to help people and being fortunate enough to attend law school at the University of South Carolina and obtain an outstanding education has equipped me to do more for others than I ever could have imagined.”

Chappell was admitted to practice in South Carolina and in the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit in 1985. He was admitted to practice in the District of Columbia in 1993. Chappell currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a Past President of the South Carolina Association for Justice.

“We know that our graduates do incredible things, and it is gratifying to see how others, especially their peers, recognize their extraordinary work, and think so highly of them,” said USC School of Law Dean Robert Wilcox. “The accomplishments and character of this year’s recipients once again reflect the ideals of public service and professionalism that the University of South Carolina School of Law — and its alumni — are known for.”

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