Miramar homeowners association pays up after woman loses leg to snake bite

Homeowners association pays $5 million to victim

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

MIRAMAR, Fla. - A snake bite cost a woman her leg and a Miramar homeowners association millions of dollars.

A University of Florida study found that venomous water moccasins are more likely to be encountered in the area around Silver Shores than in the Everglades.

"Yeah, people talk about the snakes," one resident leaving the gated community told Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier.

"When it rains, they come out a lot," Alex Belo said.

Belo lives on the water and said he can barely go outside because of the snake situation behind his home.

Silver Shores is located just west of Interstate 75 on Pembroke Road.

Several of the homes back up to an undeveloped mitigation area. It's the perfect natural habitat for water moccasins to thrive. 

According to a UF snake study, the chance of a water moccasin encounter occurring in Silver Shores is 8.6 times higher than in the Everglades, Big Cypress or Loxahatchee.

When UF researchers kayaked and walked around the area, they encountered 69 venomous snakes during their three visits.

"The study done by the University of Florida, to me, was incredibly revealing," Ron Magill, of Zoo Miami, said.

Magill was an expert witness in a case filed against Silver Shores Master Association and KW Property Management after a resident was bitten.

"People definitely need to be careful of this now. Snakes are coming out now, especially with the rains," Magill said.  

Attorney Brent Reitman and partner Joseph Slama reached a $5 million settlement with the HOA and the property management company.

Their client, a Silver Shores resident, was headed outside when a water moccasin hiding in the track of her sliding glass door bit her big toe.

The victim's leg was eventually amputated below the knee.

The 37-year-old victim's leg eventually had to be amputated below the knee as a result, the attorneys said.

Slama and Reitman said their client was never warned about the severe snake issue in her backyard, despite letters and complaints from residents.

They said the issue was discussed several times at board meetings.

The attorneys said the mitigation area that backs up to residents' homes is owned and maintained by the Silver Shores Master Association.

"They had been getting complaints from residents as early as three years before this happened to our client," Reitmen said.

"They simply denied that there was a problem," Slama said.

Magill said the snakes won't chase people down, and there are ways to prevent getting bitten.

"They will go under things like potted plants, they will go under things like grills, they will go under things like garbage cans -- anything that they can get under to get shelter and be protected, that is where they will be," Magill said.

Researchers say the area around the Silver Shores community is a hotbed for dangerous snakes.

"What's the message to other homeowners associations that may have a similar problem?" Weinsier asked Slama.

"If you became aware of the presence of venomous snakes in your community, just get the message out," he said.

An attorney for KW Property Management said the company was not negligent and did nothing wrong. Attorney Frank Simone said the victim was bitten by a wild animal, and the association is restricted in what it can do in the undeveloped mitigation area.

Simone said insurance companies settle cases to cap their financial exposure.

Regardless, warning signs have now been put up in the area, warning residents of the potential dangers. The victim has since moved away from the area.

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