In Orlando, Florida, a two-year-old toddler was grabbed and dragged underwater by an alligator while he was wading in the shallow water on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon. The tragic incident occurred on the night of June 14, while the boy and his family were vacationing at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Police retrieved his body on June 15.
Although alligators are frequently sighted in the state, the incident raises issues concerning whether Disney could have taken actions to prevent the toddler’s death. There were “no swimming” signs on display, and the hotel did not explicitly admonish the guests about the existence of alligators in the water.
At the time of the incident, the boy and his family were resting close to the shore of the lagoon when the boy was taken hold of by an alligator. According to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, the boy’s body was discovered a few meters from shore and 1.8 m (6 ft) underwater. The discovery was made following a 16-hour search. The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office later said that the cause of death was drowning and traumatic injuries. Sheriff Demings described the fatality as the first of its kind at Disney World during its 45 years in business. The issue is whether the company is legally liable for the boy’s death.
Under Florida state law, the liability of Disney is dependent on whether it exhibited negligence in its failure to warn guests about the possible perils of alligators and the company’s knowledge of the risk of harm. Under Florida’s premises liability law, a property owner is charged with maintaining property in a safe condition and for warning its invitees of hidden dangers of which the owner is aware. An invitee is a person who enters the property of another as a result of an express or implied invitation of the owner.
The owner is also held accountable if a trespassing child suffers harm due to an attractive nuisance on the property. This is an object, such as a swimming pool, that could be appealing to a child. However, the law does not apply to wildlife. Furthermore, property owners are not liable for confrontations between invitees and wild animals. Disney would be answerable only if the alligators were pets or controlled by the company. Nevertheless, Disney could be held liable if it is determined that it was negligent. However, legal experts predict that Disney will likely settle the case to avoid any negative publicity.
If you were injured or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a property owner, call the premises liability attorneys at Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers.