There has been immense speculation in the media lately in regards to the recent alligator attack that took place at a Disney resort in Orlando, Florida. It seems likely that Disney will be facing a premises liability and wrongful death lawsuit. However, there are many aspects of the event that are still being investigated.
Context of the Attack
According to several sources, on June 14th, the Graves family was attending a movie night at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa when Lane Graves (two years of age), the son of the family, waded into the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Though there were “No swimming” signs stationed around the lagoon, the family did not heed the warnings and Lane was attacked by a submerged alligator. The alligator latched onto Lane and receded into the water. Lane’s father, Matt Graves, then attempted to retrieve his son and fight off the alligator, but was unsuccessful. A search began immediately for Lane, and lasted 16 hours until Lane’s body was found at 1:45 pm about ten yards away from where the attack took place.
Legal Aspects of the Event
Every landowner or tenant is responsible for a “duty of care” to anyone who is invited onto the owner’s property. That is to say, that a landowner must take all of the steps that a reasonable person would take in order to ensure the safety of his or her guests. In this case, the family will argue that Disney did not take the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of its guests including Lane Graves.
Disney may be found liable in this case for the following reasons:
- First, Disney knew (or should have known) that the alligators posed a danger to its guests.
Disney staff and managers knew (or should have known) that there was risk of a guest being attacked by an alligator. In Florida, it is commonly known that alligators will and have attacked people who stray too close to water. In fact, there has been 23 reported alligator attack-related deaths in Florida since 1973, and an additional 373 alligator attacks within that time. It was also known that the Seven Seas Lagoon was connected to a web of alligator infested canals. Thus a “reasonable person” should have known that the Seven Seas Lagoon was potentially dangerous.
- Second, Disney did not take proper action to eradicate the risk of an alligator attack.
There is an argument that Disney is not liable and that the parents are at fault because the lagoon had “No swimming” signs placed in clear view. However, this does not exempt Disney from being liable because the signs did not eliminate the risk of alligator attacks or fully inform its guests of the potential risk.
Disney resorts often receive patrons from all over the United States and the world (in this case the Graves were from Nebraska). Most of these people would not understand that the nearby water bodies are dangerous because of the alligators that live there. Therefore a “reasonable person” should have made sure to fully inform the guests about the danger that the alligators posed. Further, Disney may have prevented these attacks by physically blocking potential contact with alligators using a fence or other barrier.