Liability for Animal Attacks in Florida
With the alligator attack of the two-year-old boy at Disney, people are wondering whether Disney is liable since there was a ‘no swimming’ sign in the water. Dan Cytryn, the founding attorney of our law firm, was interviewed by USA Today regarding the Disney gator attack stating: “The exposure is phenomenal”, hotel operators “have a duty to protect (guests) from unreasonable risk of physical harm.”
The alligator attack took place at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at Disney World. The family of the two-year-old boy was hanging out by the resort’s man-made lagoon when the child began wade into the water. Suddenly, an alligator attacked the child. The boy’s father tried to grab him from the alligator but was unsuccessful. Unfortunately the gator dragged the boy into the water. The next day, the child was found dead from drowning and injuries.
There is no parental responsibility for a family from Nebraska who may have never seen a sign saying "No swimming" who thought their child was wading into a man-made lake. Parachuting, parasailing, and swimming/scuba diving with sharks is not wading ankle deep into a lake at a resort. In spite of that, Florida courts hold that when a swimmer ignores “No swimming” signs, that is the sole reason for their injuries.
In most circumstances, landowners are not automatically liable for wild animal attacks. Nevertheless, each case is circumstantial so exceptions can be made. When an individual pays money to stay on a property owner’s land, that person is considered an “invitee.” Under Florida law, the property owner has two responsibilities to the “invitee”: (1) the duty to use reasonable care in maintaining the property in a safe condition, and (2) the duty to warn latent or concealed dangers that the owner knows about.
Specifically with regards to wild animals, Florida law does not require the landowner to anticipate their existence. Since alligators are native to Florida, property owners are not automatically responsible for them. However, if the property owner has previous knowledge about their presence, the property owners could be found negligent.
This is not the first time that there was an alligator attack in Disney World. In 1986, an eight year old boy was injured when he was attacked by a gator at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness close to where the recent attack occurred. In that attack, the boy was watching ducks when a gator grabbed him by the leg. Fortunately, the boy survived the attack because his older sister grabbed him from his underarms while his older brother hit the alligator until he released him.
In response to this tragic accident, Disney put up fences, barriers, and added new signs stating, “Danger! Alligators and snakes in the area. Stay away from the water. Do not feed the wildlife.” The family of the two-year-old boy has decided not to sue Disney. Instead, they created the Lane Thomas foundation in his memory which donates funds to charities.
If you or someone you know was injured in an animal attack, call our personal injury law firm now toll-free at 1-877-853-7466 for your free consultation. If you have a case, we will advise you on the next steps you should take. Don’t wait another day! Call now to see what we can do for you!