Disney could face a wrongful death lawsuit over deadly alligator

Disney could face a wrongful death lawsuit in the death of a two-year old toddler who was dragged into a lagoon by an alligator at a Disney resort in Florida on Tuesday. As of the writing of this piece Disney and the family of the boy, Lane Graves, are dealing with the sorrow, horror and sadness. Disney’s resort beaches have remained closed.

According to George Kalogridis, Walt Disney World Resort president “There are no words to convey the profound sorrow we feel for the family and their unimaginable loss,” he went on to state “We are devastated and heartbroken by this tragic accident and are doing what we can to help them during this difficult time. On behalf of everyone at Disney, we offer them our deepest sympathy.”

If the family should decide to file a wrongful death case against Disney. The case will revolve and resolve around whether Disney took sufficient reasonable care to prevent this from happening.

“There’s going to be an uphill battle for the family of Lane Graves against Disney, Disney will turn the tables and try to place the blame on the parents – for lack of supervision of a 2 yr. old and for assumption of risk.” So says Patrick J. Tighe, a civil litigation attorney and former insurance adjuster with the X1Law Firm. Mr. Tighe also believes “a battle will be fought about what standard of care is there for a lagoon like this?” Defense counsel will attempt to use a standard that is more forgiving for Disney like a “Private Safari Compound” whereas the attorney for the family will push for the standard to be more favorable to them, such as a private beach known to have sharks. This will be very important as to which standard is followed.

The area of the resort where the incident occurred did have “No Swimming” signs, but did not warn about Gators, Gator warning signs are common practice in Florida and there absence could be enough to find Disney at fault. “The lagoon could have been roped off or have an underwater barrier to prohibit Gators from entering it?” Tighe  said. Disney could raise an argument for an assumption of risk defense in that alligators are easily encountered in Florida.

This argument will be more for the Hail Mary aspect of the case. Disney is the standard barer for Family resorts worldwide. People attend Disney and think Disney controls everything inside including the weather. The resort is heavily visited by tourists both domestic and international who have never been to Florida before. The Graves’ family was visiting from Nebraska. They come to Disney for fun and relaxation – there is an expectation of safety and as such that Disney will keep everyone safe-everywhere.

If there is a wrongful death lawsuit, Graves relatives would make claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress in addition to the Wrongful Death claim. They would be seeking and hopefully receiving a settlement or verdict in the 7-8 figures.

It will be interesting to see if Disney defends or if it follows Walmart’ in settling a tragic and high profile incident.

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