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Deadly Attack at Amusement Park Sheds New Light on Liability

By now, the tragic news of the death of 2-year-old Lane Graves has made its way across the nation. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, his story will. On the night of June 14th, the toddler was attacked and killed by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. The public’s reaction to Lane’s death was to show incredible compassion and support for the grieving family- some even shared photos of their family at the exact spot the child was attacked. Others have questioned whether his death could have been prevented with proper precautions.

While most theme park injuries are the result of faulty rides, other injuries, like the attack suffered by Lane Graves, can occur on the grounds of amusement parks. One of the major misconceptions that often leads to injuries is that theme parks are inherently safe. People believe they are taking their family to a place that is devoid of any danger- and with good reason; Disney World has been dubbed by many as “the happiest place on earth.” However, children are the victims of about 50% of reported injuries at amusement parks.

Most of the injuries that happen at theme parks are a result of the rides. Whether due to ride malfunction, improper operation, poor signage, or mechanical failure, injuries suffered at amusement parks can range from mild to serious.  These injuries can include everything from neck strains to broken bones, and aneurysms; some may result in fatalities. However, many injuries occur on theme park grounds. If the injury is a result of either negligence on behalf of the amusement park, or product liability, there is grounds for legal action.

There are several ways that a theme park can be proven negligent; including failure to properly train employees, not maintaining rides or equipment, or lack of proper signage. In the case of the death of Lane Graves, several reports have surfaced that claim the lake at the Grand Floridian did not have proper signage warning of the potential danger.

As a result of the incident, Disney officials took swift action and removed and euthanized several alligators from the Seven Seas Lagoon- including the one believed to have killed Lane Graves. However, some believe that properly identifying the alligator responsible for Graves’ death isn’t possible. There has also been signage put in place warning guests that fishing is not allowed,temporary barriers put in place along the shoreline, and all alligator characters have been removed from rides.

Whether Disney World will prove to be at fault for the 2-year-old’s death still remains to be seen. As of today, no formal legal motions have been filed against the amusement park. However, some lawyers believe that Disney World does hold some responsibility for the attack. According to this article in USA Today, concerns about the  presence of alligators by Disney staff have been brought to the attention of officials previously. However, a Florida state law asserts that land owners aren’t responsible for the actions of wild animals unless they own or have introduced the animal to the property- which may limit Disney’s liability in this matter.

Regardless of fault, this tragedy has begun to incite change at the theme park and its surrounding resorts. Preventing tragedy from happening in the first place is always the best option; however, the attack on Lane Graves has brought increased awareness to a dangerous situation many families were unknowingly putting their children in by allowing them to go near the water at these resorts.