In a tragic moment, one family's trip to a Disney resort in Florida turned into a nightmare: their two-year-old child was dragged underwater by an alligator and drowned. Many people question whether Disney could have done more to prevent such an attack. While this particular case has yet to play out in court, it can help you understand the issues involved in any wrongful death or personal injury case where a business owner fails to protect its patrons from harm. These are two questions that can determine if the owner is financially liable for an injury or death.
Did the property owner know about the dangers?
Premise liability laws say that a property owner who exposes invitees (people there in the course of business, like the family staying at the Disney resort) to danger in a negligent fashion is responsible for any injuries as a result. One of the questions that can determine negligence is how aware the property owner was (or should have been) of the danger in question. For example, a store owner can't be expected to wipe up a liquid that spilled a second before someone slipped on it—but if the spill was sitting there for an hour while the store owner ignored it and did other things, that would be considered negligence.
In the case of the alligator attack, Disney may have a hard time denying awareness of the danger to its guests. Unprovoked attacks by the reptiles are on the rise in Florida. In fact, Florida leads the nation in the number of documented alligator attacks—more than 300 people have been attacked in the state since 1948. The second state on the list, Texas, has only seen 15 attacks in the same period of time. Experts estimate that there are more than a million alligators in Florida, and they populate lakes, rivers, canals, and golf course ponds, often in close proximity to humans.
Given these statistics, even if Disney didn't know that there was an alligator in close proximity to its guests at the resort, attorneys can argue that the company should have known that there was a good likelihood one was there.
Did the property owner take reasonable steps to prevent the danger?
Property owners are expected to exercise a reasonable amount of concern for the safety of invitees. This is a subjective test—based on the idea of what an "ordinarily prudent and rational" person would do, given the same situation. The difficulty for anyone pursuing a personal injury or wrongful death claim is that not everyone can always agree about what steps are reasonable to take.
For example, in the case of the boy killed by the alligator, the Disney resort had signs cautioning guests against swimming in the water, but there were no signs warning of possible alligator attacks. If the family takes the case to court, a defense attorney could argue that the signs against swimming were sufficient warning—that it's common knowledge that Florida has a large number of alligators so a specific warning is unnecessary. On the other hand, an attorney for the family could argue that the resort knew that it had guests from distant states who might not be aware of the dangers the way that native Floridians are. They could also argue that a reasonable person would put up a sign warning guests of potential danger and hire someone to patrol the area to watch for alligators.
Many people are injured or killed on a regular basis due to the negligence of others. If you or a family member fall victim, contact an attorney in your area to discuss your case. For more about this topic, check out this blog.
About a year ago, I was left dealing with injuries sustained during a serious car accident. I was worried that I would never be the same, so I decided to start looking into ways to make things right. After thinking about the wreck, I realized that since it wasn't my fault, I shouldn't be left with all of the medical expenses. I decided that I needed to look into things a little further, and I decided to file a personal injury lawsuit. My lawyer helped me to come to grips with the extent of my injuries and helped me to make things right. This blog is all about understanding personal injury lawsuits.