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Amusement Park Safety in Light of Disney Alligator Attack

A week ago, a small child was saved from a gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo and parents everywhere breathed a sigh of relief. Sadly, the same cannot be said today, as the body of a two-year-old boy was pulled from a Disney World lagoon after being attacked by an alligator. All of the beaches at the Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando are currently closed and five alligators have been euthanized.

Amusement and other parks are designed to make people relax and encourage visitors to enjoy the sights around them. In many cases, this can lead to a sense of false safety. Parents often tend to think that every safety measure possible has been thought of by the host park and that neither they nor their children can possibly come to any harm. The Disney case is a prime example. How could the parents, who were from Nebraska, have reasonably known that 1) alligators can be found in just about any body of water in the state of Florida, and 2) that an alligator could be, of all places, in a manmade lagoon at a family resort?

Our own experience with such events has led us to caution parents to be extra vigilant in such places of apparent safety. We have represented riders on roller coasters and other thrill rides with safety issues.

We have also represented the family of a four-year-old boy who drowned inside one of these parks. In that case (Goode v. Walt Disney World) our firm was successful in securing a multi-million jury verdict in Orlando on the basis that amusement parks have an obligation to provide a safe environment and keep patrons safe. Our legal team persevered despite contentious efforts from the Disney Corporation over two trials and four appeals spanning nine years of litigation. It culminated in the highest jury award ever against any Disney park to date at that time.

Here are some thoughts about avoiding danger in amusement parks:

  • If you have a toddler, make sure you or another member of your family are holding their hand at all times
  • Scope out all water attractions for hidden dangers, such as slippery areas, deep water, or fences that aren’t high enough
  • Never assume that everything is safe

Despite the above, some things cannot be anticipated. We cannot imagine any parent thinking that a body of water in an amusement park that invites millions of toddlers to visit would have deadly alligators lurking by the water’s edge. We at Freidin Brown, P.A. extend our deepest condolences to the family during this difficult time.

Continuing coverage of this case can be found online via CNN.

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