Should Hotels Be Liable for Alligator and Other Wild Animal Attacks?


June 21, 2016

A tragedy unfolded recently at a Disney World resort when a young boy was dragged and killed by an alligator. The incident happened at about nine p.m. on a Tuesday night at the Disney Grand Floridian Hotel in Walt Disney World. A Nebraska family was standing near the nearby lake as their two-year-old son waded close to the shore. Suddenly, an alligator snatched the child and started dragging him away. His horrified father attempted to save the boy, prying the jaws of the alligator open, but was sadly unable to save his child. The boy's body was found the next day. A full autopsy will be conducted, but it appears at this time that the boy drowned.

This terrible incident has evoked sorrow across the nation. Many seem to be looking for someone on which to lay the blame. The topic has been raised whether Disney World and other hotels could be liable for animal attacks occurring on the premises. Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law, were deeply saddened to hear of the recent fatal alligator attack. Our team explores the complex issue of hotel's liability for alligator or other wild animal attacks below.

A Hotel's Legal Duties to Its Guests

Walt Disney World and other hotels are property owners that hold their land and buildings open to the public. Individuals paying to stay on the property are likely considered "invitees" under the law in most states. While laws vary according to each state, generally a property owner has the duty to use reasonable care to maintain the property in safe condition. This can include a duty to warn of known dangers that the invitee may not recognize. Accordingly, any animal attack will need to take into consideration what actions that hotel took or failed to take to protect guests from harm.

Warning Signs

In the wake of the alligator attack, the media has made mention that Disney World did have signs in place by the lake that warned guests not to swim. It does not appear the signs specifically warned of the presence of alligators. In the event of an alligator or wild animal attack, it will be important to examine the signage and other warnings conveyed to guests.

Unknown Danger?

If the danger is considered an obvious one, it may be hard for a plaintiff injured by a wild animal at a hotel to establish negligence on the part of the hotel. Looking to the Florida alligator attack, many would claim that the risks of alligators in Florida freshwater are obvious and not something a hotel must warn against. However, it can be countered that the lake itself had a beach like appearance and was in the middle of a massive resort, making it perhaps reasonable for a tourist to be unaware of the risks of alligators.

Ultimately, any wild animal attack occurring at a hotel or resort will need to be examined on an individual basis with a focus on that state's specific and unique laws. The issues surrounding wild animal attacks on another person or company's land are complex and multi-faceted. While always tragic, these events do not always give rise to liability.

Put Our Law Firm's Over 30 Years of Legal Experience to Work For Your Case!

This horrific accident raises complicated issues of liability. If you have been injured in an accident that could have involved negligence, contact the Atlanta Personal Injury Attorneys at Montlick and Associates, Attorneys at Law. Our firm has assisted accident victims for over 30 years. We represent injured clients across Georgia, including all smaller cities and rural areas in the state.

No matter where you are located, our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Personal Injury

Please Note:
Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.