The family of an elderly woman killed by an alligator as she walked her dog near her Florida home is suing the retirement community where she lived for wrongful death.
Gloria Serge, 85, died in February 2023 after the 11ft alligator, known to residents as Henry, sprang from a retention pond at Spanish Lakes Fairways in Fort Pierce and dragged her back into the water.
The attack was captured on CCTV and reported by Inside Edition, which interviewed a neighbor describing frantic attempts to save Serge.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of Serge’s son William, the manager of her estate, contends that the alligator was a “known nuisance” to Wynne Building Corporation, the owner and operator of the 435-acre Spanish Lakes Fairways, and should have been removed.
Additionally, the filing states, Wynne neglected to install signs warning of the danger from alligators, which are common throughout Florida.
“I never could have imagined the agonizing way that my mother spent the last moments of her life,” William told reporters at a news conference announcing the lawsuit, which is seeking $50,000 in damages and a jury trial.
“The sudden, violent nature of this attack, thinking about my mom in her final moments, resulted in a whole different level of all-consuming grief.”
Gary Lesser, Williams’ attorney, said Wynne, which owns a number of retirement developments in the state, failed in its obligation to keep residents safe by not erecting signs or making mention of the alligator’s presence in its weekly newsletter. Worse, he added, staff treated Henry as kind of a community pet.
“If Spanish Lakes had taken any measure of common sense and reasonable action, Gloria would be here today,” he said.
“Residents and community staff fed this alligator. Our investigation found that residents and staff fed the alligator chicken and other food from their lunch on a regular basis.”
Serge’s family also says the only reason she and her small dog Trooper were at the water’s edge was because Wynne officials had threatened to evict her for walking the animal in front of her home, which is not a designated pet area according to community rules.
She had been a resident of the community for more than two decades, they said.
The Florida fish and wildlife conservation commission (FWC) trapped and euthanized the alligator that attacked Serge.
In a statement reported by CBS News, Wynne Building Corporation president Joel Wynne denied the company was at fault.
“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,” he said.
“Mrs Serge was a longtime resident and certainly knew of the presence of alligators and that they were inherently dangerous animals.”
One of the most prominent occurred in 2016 when a two-year-old boy was snatched and killed by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando. Lane Graves’s family chose not to sue Disney but used the money it received in a settlement to set up a foundation in his name.