Personal injury Lawyer Matt Arnold answers the question: ” I have been injured on another person’s property. What should I do now?”
It was a terrible week for Disney. Executives had gathered in Shanghai for the splashy opening of their new $5.5 billion resort. Others were already making plans for the opening of a new “Frozen” attraction at Epcot. In the midst of all that good news, an alligator emerged from a lagoon and dragged away a two-year boy, a tragedy that ultimately resulted in the young boy’s death.
The family of the boy is no doubt devastated. News reports indicate they were visiting Disney from Nebraska, likely unaccustomed to the dangers posed by alligators. The question that many have asked in the days since the attack is what kind of legal risks Disney faces related to the incident. To find out more about the liability property owners face when something happens to a guest, keep reading.
First things first, there’s a general rule that says when someone is injured on someone else’s property, the degree of liability of the property owner depends on the status of the person who was injured. Someone who was invited onto the property as a paying guest is likely deemed an invitee. In Florida, the law says that property owners owe several things to invitees. First, property owners owe the duty of reasonable care and must maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition. Second, property owners have a duty to warn of any latent or concealed dangers which are known or should be known to the owner and unknown to the invitee.
Another factor that plays into the potential liability of Disney is that the harm was caused by a wild animal. The law generally says that wild animals are unpredictable and uncontrollable and that, as a result, property owners are not required to anticipate the presence of or protect invitees from harm caused by wild animals. There are exceptions, such as if a property owner introduced the wild animals to the property or if they animals are confined and thus viewed as private property.
Though this may seem to indicate that Disney could avoid liability given that alligators are indigenous animals and not introduced or under the control of Disney, courts have said that property owners can be found liable in certain cases. Specifically, courts say that if a property owner knew or should have known of a risk posed by an animal on their premises, then the property owner should take be held responsible. Only one other alligator attack has ever been reported at Disney and it happened in the 1980s. Is that enough to put Disney on notice? Experts say that it’s debatable.
Some reports noted that Disney posted “No Swimming” signs near the lagoon where the child was taken. However, the signs were posted in an area that Disney also made inviting by including lounge chairs on the beach. Disney never specifically warned about alligators either, only about swimming. Disney is apparently considering installing new signs warning of the danger associated with alligators.
Though the legal waters are murky, most personal injury experts say that it is almost certain that Disney would settle this case before it ever made its way into a courtroom. In the end, Disney likely wants to avoid dragging a devastated family through a lengthy lawsuit, even if they have a strong legal argument.
If you or someone close to you has been injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney today who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a free consultation, call at 704-370-2828 or click here for additional resources.
About the Author
Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.
A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.
In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.
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