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Disney Alligator Tragedy: Is the Resort Liable for Wrongful Death of Toddler?

The Anastopoulo Law Firm

Several recent tragedies in the news have concerned children who have been injured while in public places, with the most recent being the tragic death of a toddler in June 2016. The child was attacked and drowned by an alligator while staying in a resort hotel at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and in the aftermath fierce social media debates have raged over who is ultimately responsible. These types of cases ultimately involve the legal theory of premises liability, which is the duty of care an establishment owes patrons. While some have blamed the parents for not keeping a better watch over their toddler, others have spoken out in their defense as legal pundits begin weighing in on the potential settlement the resort may offer to avoid facing a lawsuit.  

Disney’s Duty Of Care

According to CNN news reports, a two-year-old vacationing from Nebraska at the Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando, Florida was wading in the Seven Seas Lagoon when a four- to seven-foot alligator snatched the child. Part of Walt Disney World, the hotel is one of several surrounding the lagoon, which is marked with no swimming signs. The attack occurred at 9:00 p.m. during an outdoor movie showing, and while the toddler’s parents were nearby, neither was able to rescue the child, who was found drowned roughly 15 feet from the shore the following day.

As social media debates are waged over whether the parents should have allowed the child to wade in the water, many have voiced their opinions that posting a ‘no swimming’ sign was a far cry from issuing a direct warning about the potential for alligators in the lagoon. Was Disney negligent for failing to post warning signs, or for taking steps to eliminate alligators from the water? According to Black’s Law Dictionary, negligence is defined as failing to take actions a reasonable person would have done under similar circumstances. While CNN reported that a total of five alligators were eventually taken from the water and euthanized, Disney officials claim to closely monitor the alligator situation in their resort, removing any gators found over four feet. At the same time, Florida wildlife experts state that alligators are an inherent part of the area’s wildlife, a fact that all residents and tourists should be aware of.

Potential Lawsuits and Settlements

While Disney could end up being liable for damages through a lawsuit filed by the parents, legal experts expect a settlement will likely be reached. Legal analysts with Fox News state that the lack of warnings and precautions to protect visitors against wildlife attacks could result in a lawsuit worth millions of dollars, but that to avoid negative publicity Disney would likely offer the family an out-of-court settlement amount, while requiring them to sign a confidentiality agreement to not discuss details of the case. In the aftermath of the tragedy, there will likely be increased signs and barriers around the lagoon, as well as other precautions to prevent another unfortunate accident from occurring.

Reach Out to Us for Help

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries as the result of another’s negligence or reckless conduct, contact Anastopoulo Law Firm.  Our experienced premises liability attorneys can assist you in holding responsible parties accountable so that you can get the compensation you deserve.


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