Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Should Disney Be Sued for Wrongful Death?

 

GatorEarlier this week we heard of the horrific death of a two-year-old boy by an alligator in a large lagoon adjacent to a Disney-owned resort hotel next to Disney World in Orlando. Can and should the grieving parents sue Disney for wrongful death? From the NY Post:

Witnesses said Lane was giggling and having fun in about 6 inches to a foot of water on the shoreline of the 172-acre lagoon during an outdoor movie event before the alligator dragged him away at about 9 p.m. Tuesday — with his horrified parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, nearby.

and

Officials admitted that the dangerous animals are “routinely” removed from the grounds — and that Disney even has its own wildlife-management team — yet the signs at the Seven Seas Lagoon, just across from Magic Kingdom Park, warn only against swimming and about deep water and steep drop-offs.

Apart from neglecting to post warning signs about the threat of gators in the lagoon, could Disney have taken other measures to prevent the animals from coming in contact with resort visitors? Barriers? Fencing? Had they explored other options but decided not to put them in place? Was it wise of the resort to hold an outdoor movie event for guests in proximity of the lagoon?

On various news sites, readers’ comments run the gamut of blaming the Nebraska-residing parents for not adequately protecting their child, for their presumed ignorance about the threat of gators in Florida, using the grim opportunity to make assorted racist remarks (because that’s what racists do apparently), to blaming Disney.

In the past, Disney has been the target of lawsuits for ride mishaps that caused injury or death at its theme parks or other incidents. One can imagine that legal representatives for the corporation are assessing their options in light of this recent incident. I’m not aware of whether Disney legal representatives have approached the parents of the toddler to discuss any settlement in the matter.

If it had been your child, what would you do now?

FNgrab

You can view Judge Napolitano’s analysis here.

There are 227 comments.

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  1. Mate De Inactive

    Is there ways to keep gators out? Gators are slippery buggers and can get onto golf courses, people’s pools and other places through drainage systems and the like. I’m not sure netting or fencing would work especially for the small ones that can get in and then grow bigger as time goes by. Perhaps a warning specifically about gators should be put up, especially for tourist who don’t know that there are a lot of gators in Florida.

    I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure the parents will sue and have a decent case, but I also think this was a totally freak thing that happened and not sure if it could be totally prevented.

    • #1
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:18 AM PDT
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  2. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    I’m usually the last person to blame the parents for this sort of thing, however, to be near open water in Florida is to be near gators. They’re a fact of life here (I have at least one in the pond in my backyard).

    It’s like letting your kid play at the edge of the Grand Canyon and then being upset when he falls over a cliff.

    • #2
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:20 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. Austin Murrey Inactive

    Brian Watt:

    If it had been your child, what would you do now?

    Honestly I can’t imagine the situation adequately to know how to respond but if I did sue Disney and won big, how could I spend that money knowing where it came from?

    Maybe I’d sue and give all the money away in my son’s name, but I’d be too shell-shocked to do much at the moment and very angry with any ambulance chasers trying to butt in on my family at a time like this.

    • #3
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:20 AM PDT
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  4. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    I was bitten by mosquitoes last time I was at Disney. I also got a mean sunburn that ruined my trip. Should I be able to sue also?

    Gators in Florida is like mosquitoes and sunshine. It is what makes it Florida.

    So no Disney should not be sued. The parents are more responsibility for this tragedy than the park. Not that it matters. The parents will sue and will win because people feel bad about their children.

    • #4
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:23 AM PDT
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  5. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Brian Watt: From the NY Post this morning:

    Witnesses said Lane was giggling and having fun in about 6 inches to a foot of water on the shoreline of the 172-acre lagoon during an outdoor movie event before the alligator dragged him away at about 9 p.m. Tuesday — with his horrified parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, nearby.

    I do wonder if the 9pm thing would put the kibosh on a lawsuit. That’s pretty late in the day – practically dark.

    • #5
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:26 AM PDT
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  6. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Seven Seas Lagoon isn’t simply “adjacent” to Walt Disney World. It’s right in the heart of the Disney property.

    It’s not a public waterway. It’s Disney’s private (and man-made) lagoon. As such, I’d say there’s decent justification for a lawsuit. A guest of the facility could have a reasonable expectation that Disney’s reputation for intense control over the artificial environment within their property would extend to the contents of the lagoon.

    Whether or not a lawsuit would be successful is beyond my expertise.

    • #6
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:28 AM PDT
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  7. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    skipsul:

    Brian Watt: From the NY Post this morning:

    Witnesses said Lane was giggling and having fun in about 6 inches to a foot of water on the shoreline of the 172-acre lagoon during an outdoor movie event before the alligator dragged him away at about 9 p.m. Tuesday — with his horrified parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, nearby.

    I do wonder if the 9pm thing would put the kibosh on a lawsuit. That’s pretty late in the day – practically dark.

    The resort hosted an outdoor event adjacent to the lagoon at that time enticing its guests to attend. Why would that put the kibosh on a lawsuit? Are resort properties absolved from any negligence after 9pm or when it’s dark outside?

    • #7
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:30 AM PDT
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  8. DocJay Inactive

    No I would not. Sad sad story.

    • #8
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:32 AM PDT
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  9. Dave Sussman Podcaster

    This is America and Disney (but I repeat myself). There will of course be a lawsuit/settlement of a significant size.

    I agree with Austin, how does one upgrade their material life on the horrorific demise of their toddler?

    • #9
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:33 AM PDT
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  10. Vance Richards Member
    Vance RichardsJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kevin Creighton:I’m usually the last person to blame the parents for this sort of thing, however, to be near open water in Florida is to be near gators. They’re a fact of life here (I have at least one in the pond in my backyard).

    It’s like letting your kid play at the edge of the Grand Canyon and then being upset when he falls over a cliff.

    I have family in Florida and pretty much any place with water you can expect alligators. I remember how much I would look around while fishing in the little pond in my parents development. Every time a stick floated by I would take a good look, just in case.

    It is tragic. I certainly wouldn’t be in the water there when it is dark out. Very sad, but I am sure they’ll sue . . . everybody sues.

    • #10
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:35 AM PDT
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  11. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    David Sussman:This is America and Disney (but I repeat myself). There will of course be a lawsuit/settlement of a significant size.

    But I agree with Austin, how does one upgrade their material life on the horrorific demise of their toddler?

    Perhaps they could donate the money to establish a trust or fund in their child’s name as has been suggested.

    • #11
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:35 AM PDT
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  12. Susan Quinn Contributor

    People from outside the area don’t know that the alligators are everywhere that there is water. Signs were posted, but I believe they were inadequate; they needed to say “Beware of Alligators.” Also people apparently feed the alligators; ordinarily the gators aren’t that interested in people–unless they provide them with food. So they approach people. We had an aggressive gator behind our home; when they came to capture him, he wasn’t shy about approaching them. Chances are, people had been feeding them. So foolish. I don’t know about the lawsuit, but it’s a terrible tragedy.

    • #12
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:37 AM PDT
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  13. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    From the article:

    During the search alone, five gators were taken from the lake. They were euthanized, and officials intended to use bite marks to see if any of the animals was the one that killed the child. (Emphasis mine.)

    Where’s the outrage at the needless murder of these five animals? Why aren’t the parents getting death threats like the Ohio mom did after the gorilla was put down at that zoo? Is one gorilla worth more than five alligators?

    #alligatorlivesmatter

    • #13
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  14. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Couldn’t the motive of a wrongful death lawsuit be that the parents would want Disney to be compelled take better measures to ensure the safety of their guests with gator warning signage around lagoons, with advisories by hotel clerks to guests upon check-in, with periodic gator warning demonstrations or videos somewhere on their resort properties?

    • #14
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  15. Could Be Anyone Member

    Misthiocracy:From the article:

    During the search alone, five gators were taken from the lake. They were euthanized, and officials intended to use bite marks to see if any of the animals was the one that killed the child. (Emphasis mine.)

    Where’s the outrage at the needless murder of this five animals? Why aren’t the parents getting death threats like the Ohio mom did after the gorilla was put down at that zoo?

    #alligatorlivesmatter

    Because they are cold blooded killers.

    • #15
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:46 AM PDT
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  16. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Could Be Anyone:

    Misthiocracy:From the article:

    During the search alone, five gators were taken from the lake. They were euthanized, and officials intended to use bite marks to see if any of the animals was the one that killed the child. (Emphasis mine.)

    Where’s the outrage at the needless murder of this five animals? Why aren’t the parents getting death threats like the Ohio mom did after the gorilla was put down at that zoo?

    #alligatorlivesmatter

    Because they are cold blooded killers.

    Your pro-simian/anti-reptilian bigotry disgusts me.

    • #16
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  17. Patrick McClure Coolidge

    Let’s assume there were no gators in the water. The sign said no swimming. The child should not have been in the water, period. I understand the parents thinking it’s OK to stand at the edge and splash. But even having been born, raised and still living in KY, even I know that FL has a large gator population. I doubt Nebraskans have less access to information than I do.

    My guess is the parents will threaten to file suit. But were I counsel for Disney I would threaten to hammer home the failure of the parents to abide by the rules. Not a defense per se, but it should go a long way to decrease Disney’s culpability in the matter. And would open the parents to public shame/ridicule. I’m guessing a quiet settlement is more likely.

    • #17
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  18. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Brian Watt:Couldn’t the motive of a wrongful death lawsuit be that the parents would want Disney to be compelled take better measures to ensure the safety of their guests with gator warning signage around lagoons, with advisories by hotel clerks to guests upon check-in, with periodic gator warning demonstrations or videos somewhere on their resort properties?

    I wish I did not read this while drinking a soft drink. It burns so much when it comes through you nose.

    Let’s be honest. The parents will want the money. Your paragraph will be the excuse they give so they do not look so bad extorting the money from Disney and anybody else even remotely involved.

    • #18
    • June 16, 2016, at 7:59 AM PDT
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  19. Brian Watt Member
    Brian WattJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Fake John/Jane Galt:

    Brian Watt:Couldn’t the motive of a wrongful death lawsuit be that the parents would want Disney to be compelled take better measures to ensure the safety of their guests with gator warning signage around lagoons, with advisories by hotel clerks to guests upon check-in, with periodic gator warning demonstrations or videos somewhere on their resort properties?

    I wish I did not read this while drinking a soft drink. It burns so much when it comes through you nose.

    Let’s be honest. The parents will want the money. Your paragraph will be the excuse they give so they do not look so bad extorting the money from Disney and anybody else even remotely involved.

    Why are you impugning bad or dishonest motives upon the parents? Do you know them personally? Have they said anything publicly that suggests they are greedy or dishonest?

    • #19
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Patrickb63: Let’s assume there were no gators in the water.

    It’s in Florida. My Florida friends swimming pools get gators and they tend to be located more north of Orlando. They all have enclosed pools with barriers but as one guy told me. It’s Florida, only an idiot would jump into their pool without checking it out first.

    • #20
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:02 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Could Be Anyone Member

    Misthiocracy:

    Could Be Anyone:

    Misthiocracy:From the article:

    During the search alone, five gators were taken from the lake. They were euthanized, and officials intended to use bite marks to see if any of the animals was the one that killed the child. (Emphasis mine.)

    Where’s the outrage at the needless murder of this five animals? Why aren’t the parents getting death threats like the Ohio mom did after the gorilla was put down at that zoo?

    #alligatorlivesmatter

    Because they are cold blooded killers.

    Your pro-simian/anti-reptilian bigotry disgusts me.

    This is not about the conflict between simians and reptilians but rather of the greater class struggle between mammalians and all reptilians. For thousands, if not millions, of years reptiles dominated the Earth and oppressed mammalians through countless material means. Now is the advent of mammalia in this class struggle that will see an end to the dialectic which the great prophet Marx foretold. Mammalia unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

    • #21
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:18 AM PDT
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  22. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    Misthiocracy: Your pro-simian/anti-reptilian bigotry disgusts me.

    Sorry, but that question was settled sometime between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

    At this point, any reptile that wants to knock to me off the top of the food chain had better be prepared to end up as a pair of boots.

    • #22
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:20 AM PDT
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  23. Freeven Member
    FreevenJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    If the pond/lake was indeed man-made, in the middle of Disney property, and the venue for a gathering hosted by Disney, an invited guest has a reasonable expectation that Disney has taken steps to protect attendees. People travel to these venues from across the globe. Disney shouldn’t expect everyone to be aware of the local dangers. Disney, on the other hand, should be well aware of them and, at a minimum, communicate those dangers to their guests. A caution against swimming is entirely insufficient, in my opinion, to communicate that one is at risk from being eaten by a gator while dipping ones toes in a few inches of water.

    I don’t know the law, but unless there is more to the story, a lawsuit sounds reasonable and just. It sounds like Disney was negligent.

    • #23
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:22 AM PDT
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  24. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    This story from a Tampa/St. Pete news outlet gives a detailed description of the lake. Disney historically and currently encourages persons to use the water for recreational purposes, including dockside fishing and boating. Disney will quietly settle with the family in return for an agreement to never disclose what will certainly be a very large sum. Oh, and probably lifetime passes to the happiest place on earth.

    • #24
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:23 AM PDT
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  25. MarciN Member

    Misthiocracy:The Seven Seas Lagoon isn’t simply “adjacent” to Walt Disney World. It’s right in the heart of the Disney property.

    It’s not a public waterway. It’s Disney’s private (and man-made) lagoon. As such, I’d say there’s decent justification for a lawsuit. A guest of the facility could have a reasonable expectation that Disney’s reputation for intense control over the artificial environment within their property would extend to the contents of the lagoon.

    I completely agree with this. The “guests'” perception would be that Disney was totally controlling that environment.

    • #25
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:28 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  26. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kevin Creighton:

    Misthiocracy: Your pro-simian/anti-reptilian bigotry disgusts me.

    Sorry, but that question was settled sometime between the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

    At this point, any reptile that wants to knock to me off the top of the food chain had better be prepared to end up as a pair of boots.

    But hands-off any simian that wants to knock you off?!

    “First the apes came for the reptiles, but I wasn’t a reptile so I didn’t speak up…”

    • #26
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:31 AM PDT
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  27. Fritz Coolidge

    I’m as cynical as the next guy about human nature and greed, but as a lawyer, I have twice represented the parents of a child lost to the negligence of others. In both cases, the parents were primarily driven by a determination to confront those responsible, and to see to it that they’d be held accountable, and would never ever repeat their negligent actions. I’d expect the same here.

    Money damages are the only remedy available in our system of civil liability, so of course money is involved. But at least in the two instances within my personal sphere, it was decidedly beside the point.

    • #27
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:32 AM PDT
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  28. Mate De Inactive

    9thDistrictNeighbor:This story from a Tampa/St. Pete news outlet gives a detailed description of the lake. Disney historically and currently encourages persons to use the water for recreational purposes, including dockside fishing and boating. Disney will quietly settle with the family in return for an agreement to never disclose what will certainly be a very large sum. Oh, and probably lifetime passes to the happiest place on earth.

    Yea, Disney does seem to encourage use of the lagoon maybe not for swimming per se, but a water skier or boater could have gotten in the water for a dip. Gators are everywhere in Florida and this is an insanely freakish thing to happen. When has anyone ever heard of this happening before? I doubt it could have been prevented and is a horrible tragedy in every sense of the word. I’m sure Disney will settle with the parents which is a tiny condolence for what they must be going through.

    • #28
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:34 AM PDT
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  29. MarciN Member

    This is difficult to explain, but context matters a lot here.

    I just came back from Disney two weeks ago, and I had “high tea” at the Grand Floridian. I know exactly where this tragedy happened. The No Swimming signs I didn’t even see or notice. I would not have imagined there were alligators in a manmade lake.

    Furthermore, there is a “trust us” attitude there, suspend your common sense and go on this ride, that seems to take over one’s rational mind.

    What surprised me the most were the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom. In New England, public display fireworks have to be over water. Disney’s are right over the built-up part of the kingdom. Thousands of people are crammed in watching these things.

    I stopped worrying and just enjoyed them.

    But later on, I noticed that parts of the park were soaking wet. I asked my son-in-law where the water had come from. Was it to protect against stray pieces of the fireworks? “You’re the only person in the world who would realize that, but that’s exactly what it’s for.”

    Cape Cod is somewhat famous for its Fourth of July fireworks, and they are never over land.

    It was things being slightly off like that that were worrisome. There was recognition that there would be flammable debris from the fireworks, yet still doing them over people’s heads. It was odd thinking–incomplete thinking, actually.

    • #29
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:37 AM PDT
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  30. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Brian Watt:

    Fake John/Jane Galt:

    Brian Watt:

    I wish I did not read this while drinking a soft drink. It burns so much when it comes through you nose.

    Let’s be honest. The parents will want the money. Your paragraph will be the excuse they give so they do not look so bad extorting the money from Disney and anybody else even remotely involved.

    Why are you impugning bad or dishonest motives upon the parents? Do you know them personally? Have they said anything publicly that suggests they are greedy or dishonest?

    Why are you ennobling them? Do you know them personally? Do they have a history of altruistic actions of no personal benefit to themselves? My experience is that people do not work that way. People do what is in their short term benefits as they perceive them. Disney is involved which means deep pockets. Lawyers, consultants, social justice warriors will come running to the smell of that money and these people will most likely either join them or be used by them. In the end Disney will settle out of court for a huge undisclosed settlement. A couple of cosmetic changes will be made so everybody can feel better about their part in the extortion. It is just the way of life.

    • #30
    • June 16, 2016, at 8:40 AM PDT
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